Corporate Globalization: it culture and politics

by Steve Martinot

A lecture given at the Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library, on 9/26/07


The definition of corporate personhood over a century ago, and the recent emergence of the World Trade Organization (WTO) as a global congress for the promulgation of multi-national corporate interests, suggest in their confluence that the corporate world is no longer simply a collection of separate entities. These points map out a process of coalescence of these entities, or what could be considered a corporate political culture. It is a global culture identifiable mainly with the community of multinational corporations (MNC). The implication of this is that the emergence of this community, a political conjunction of artificial entities inventing global bodies and agencies through which to govern their economic hegemony, constitutes the real substance of the term "corporate globalization."

I would like to present an outline of this corporate culture from an historical perspective. While it is still possible to think of corporations in a traditional way, as simply a form of capitalist organization by which labor is exploited and capital accumulated, the existence of a corporate community and culture beyond the purview of the nation-state suggests that this might be short-sighted. Instead, if the global forms of corporate organization have shifted, then the locus and modes of struggle that have never abated against the injustices, exploitations, and impoverishments to which the corporations have subjected human beings the world over, must also shift.

By "corporate culture" I mean a commonality of operations, interests, and structures organized collectively as a "community" of entities, despite the differences and competitions between them. While this "culture" reflects the internal organization of corporations themselves, it has a socio-political ethos that transcends its fundamental character. As separate economic entities, corporations function as profit-oriented capitalist organizations in a more or less classical manner; as a community, their confluence changes the nature of power -- globally, and as a "class" -- by changing their form of control, and of their wielding of capital interest. This means understanding corporations as structures beyond their pure economic functions.

Let us look briefly at these structures, and then address what happens when it is globalized.

Historically, the corporation stands at the head of capitalism, as one of its first modes of organization. This places it alongside colonization, monopoly, and slavery as essential aspects of the dawn of capitalist development (called, in economic terms, "primitive accumulation"). That is, capitalism was born under different stars than its proverbial foundation in market competition and wage-labor. In its first forms of labor control, capitalism depended on slavery. The wages system controls laborers and insures obedience through the power to dismiss. But this only works within a fully commodified society, in which laborers can avail themselves of no alternate non-commodified and autonomous means of subsistence. Until full commodification makes the sale of labor power the only means of survival, the wages system remains insufficient as a means of control. Hence, slavery was essential prior to that level of commodification. In the colonies, slavery appeared in its most overt and brutal form, while in England, during the 15th and 16th centuries, vagrancy laws providing imprisonment for unemployed laborers rendered employment a slightly more subtle form of enslavement.

Similarly, monopoly (as granted by royal charter), both with respect to colonization and the formation of early agricultural enterprises, was a necessary condition for capitalist development. In the absence of developed markets, a prohibition of competition was necessary to politically guarantee profitability, and thus capital accumulation. Competition was reduced by royal edict, again until a sufficient level of commodification of social process had developed. In short, wage-labor and market competition were luxuries capitalism could afford only after it had fully commodified society.

Many people regard the corporation as simply an extension of the development of large-scale industry, thus only becoming an important economic factor in the 20th century. But in the US, the corporation has always been a predominant form of social organization. The first major colonialist ventures, like the Virginia Company in 1606, or the Massachusetts Company and the Dutch East India company, were all corporations, established by royal charter. Cities are corporations, as are counties, NGOs, and unions; they acquire social status and recognition through incorporation. The corporation has always resided at the core of social and political life in the US.

The internal structure of the corporation determines the centrality of certain ethical and cultural characteristics, imparted to their social environment by acting as a kind of template. To list some is to delve into the normative foundations of capitalist society. For instance, as a mode of large-scale investment, the purpose of incorporation is to avoid or evade liability and responsibility for the effects the corporate institution has on the outside world. That is, it valorizes a dispensing of ethics as a fundamental social norm. Or indeed, it renders ethical a sense of irresponsibility toward others outside one's group. The acceptance of brutality toward slaves, the ignoring of the condition of unskilled workers by the skilled during the 19th century union movement, and the acceptance of police brutality today are reflections of this ethos.

Second, corporate operations are hierarchically stratified internally. Lower levels are responsible and answerable to upper levels in terms of fulfilling upper level commands; upper levels demand both obedience and allegiance from lower levels, but refuse responsibility for any damage resulting to lower levels, or to the world through lower level operations. Concern for people is thus similarly stratified. The concern each level has is only to insure the profitability of the corporation as a whole implicit in fulfilling the commands it is given. On a daily basis, the planet is despoiled, crimes are committed, and humans brutalized by corporations; those who perform those actions do so under threat of losing their jobs if they don't. Thus, the corporation voids any sense of social responsibility; organizational responsibility is directed upward, while upper levels abjure responsibility for the dehumanization that lower levels obedience incurs.

If the persons at one level must abjure any concern for what happens to the people at lower levels in the interests of obedience, then the obedience structure becomes a form of stratified dehumanization. Humanity is granted only to those one encounters at higher levels, whom one must obey, but is denied those at lower level whose obedience is primary. Responsibility and dehumanization work in tandem. As a structuring of social life, the corporation engenders an ethos in which obedience and dehumanization become inseparable dimensions of organizational or institutional allegiance.

These ethical categories do not replace the corporation's capitalist function as labor exploitation; they enumerate the cultural norms that emerge from its particular structural form. The corporate form of operation cannot avoid conditioning the ethical social norms of the society it inhabits. The people filling positions within this form of social stratification are granted their humanity only from below without any need for reciprocity, while they can insufficiently grant "humanity" to those above only at their peril. And these "values" perfuse the surrounding society. We find this ethos at work in major universities as hierarchical institutions. It still occurs in labor organization, in the stratifications of unskilled labor, skilled labor, and union leaders.

In sum, the social values engendered and inculcated by the corporate structure are obedience, allegiance, and dehumanization. These constitute the fundamental normative values of a society embued with a corporate-oriented culture. Though the corporation reserves for itself the right to view the world merely as resource (material and labor) pursuant to its profitability, it succeeds in doing so because it creates a social milieu for itself that fundamentally accords with these values.

One of the horrendous factors that has validated social acceptance of these grotesque values was the granting of personhood to corporations by the US government. Beyond their ability to simply throw their economic weight around, or deploy the state as an instrumentality for their private interests, personhood renders them political entities with respect to the nation-state.

However, a question arises as why the granting of personhood to corporations made sense to people within the context of the political culture. Why, indeed, was it acceptible? To answer this, we have to address a fundamental anomaly in the structure of nation-state governance itself. The problem emerges from the structural inability of representative government to represent, to function as representative. That is, elective representation doesn't work.

The reason this is so is that representatives are elected on a single-delegate winner-take-all basis. For each electoral district, however districts are divided, each one gets a single representative. Yet each district is composed of many different constituencies containing conflicting class interests, differing cultural needs, competing social identities, and disparate ideological positions. No single delegate could represent all, or even a balance these interests. Each representative faces an impossible task. The affect is that a hiatus opens up between the elected representatives and their electorates. Isolated by this structural hiatus, the delegates insulate themselves by developing a hermetic legislative culture. They trade support for projects among themselves, and sell their legislative influence to the highest bidder, irrespective of the real (though conflictive) needs of their districts. Far from facilitating democracy, the ideology of "representationism" merely disguises the inability to represent, the impossibility of popular democratic participation.

Perhaps this system worked briefly in the US immediately after the adoption of the Constitution. At that time, the electorate was relatively uniform, composed only of white male property owners. But as other classes, differing class interests (commercial, agrobusiness, labor, finance) sought political positionality in the new states, the ability of representatives to represent diminished.

The ultimate effect of the inability of representatives to represent is political crisis. In its extreme form, the crisis produces civil war. The Civil War in the US occurred because two elite factions, the landed slavocracy and industrial capital, couldn't resolve their interests in a representationist legislature. The same thing occurred in many Latin American countries after they liberated themselves from Spain during the first half of the 19th century. In Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay, southern Brazil, and elsewhere, in the decades after 1810, having adopted Constitutions patterned after that of the US, civil society broke down into civil wars, waged under the leadership of contesting political parties. In other words, representationism has not even been able to resolve conflicts between different factions of the elite, though their interests may not be strictly contradictory.

It was to resolve the crisis of representationism that, in the US, corporations were given legal personhood. This transformed the nature of political constituency. It not only allowed the corporations to take their place as members in "good standing" among the politically active electorate, it gave them predominance over all other economic (and thus political) interests, because of their vast economic weight. They could shove real humans (from whatever class or economic interest) aside with respect to political influence. The affect was to constitute a new uniformity within the electorate, which in turn imparted a stability to representationist bodies.

Corporate personhood was codified juridically in 1886 in the case of Santa Clara vs. Southern Pacific RR (not by court decision but through bureaucratic intervention in the decision by the court's clerks). But the idea goes back to the beginning of the 19th century. It was first theorized in the 1820s by Daniel Webster, one of the leading Federalist voices in the new republic. He was essentially the first conservative, overshadowing Alexander Hamilton by quite a bit. While he foresaw the stabilizing effect of corporate personhood, the need was not generally recognized until after the Civil War.

Through corporate personhood, a political process was initiated (which has more or less come to fruition today) in which the corporations became the primary citizenry, while real humans were ever more reduced to political irrelevancy. We shall see below how this had played itself out in the current processes of corporate globalization. It has also been in service to that personhood that the government today has shifted its economic focus from a Keynesian concern for aggregate demand to that Keynesianism for the corporations known as supply-side economics. This represents an ethical shift in responsibility on the part of the government; it represents a refusal to take responsibility for the well-being its human citizens in lieu of servicing the welfare of corporate interests (from subsidies for runaway shops to tax cuts to the suspension of anti-trust legislation to wars of wanton aggression).

This history is important for contextualizing a discussion of corporate globalization, and to understand the inner dynamics of that process. Let us turn now to the next level of this process, that of corporate colonialism. The quantum leap in size and complexity of corporate capitalist enterprise that emerged after the Civil War in the US facilitated led to increased need for raw materials and markets. Thus, a new wave of colonization occurred, beginning in the 1880s, first from Europe, and then by the US. Where the first wave of European colonization was founded on settlement (during the 16th and 17th centuries), this second wave was founded on investment. Colonization through corporate investment not only represented a different from of extraction of wealth, but the obstruction of local economic development in the areas in question -- principally Latin America, Africa, and Asia. It also meant the control of local finances by European and US banks. Three continents were essentially reduced to sources of raw materials and cheap labor for EuroAmerican corporate production.

This early colonialist investment did not constitute what has recently appeared as a "multi-national" corporation. Those early investments were clone corporations, functioning within their subjected areas as they had in the metropole, taking over control of economic processes, but owned and controlled by other corporations in the metropole. It amounted to a seizure of wealth and its transportation to the industrial metropole, but in the form of corporate earnings. They gave the metropole the form of an octopus whose tentacles were corporate enterprises grasping wealth and feeding production at its industrial center, while barring industrial development in the pillaged periphery.

This form of colonialism worked until the Second World War. Then it confronted a crisis situation. After that war, a wave of national liberation revolutions swept the colonized world, bringing to political prominence the anti-colonialist resistance movements that had always existed throughout nd as anti-colonialist movements came to power in the 50s and 60s, they started nationalizing social assets, such as EuroAmerican corporate investments. In some cases, those acts of nationalization were fairly thorough, as in China, Vietnam, and Cuba. While the octopus fought back (with wars in Vietnam, Algeria, Angola, Congo, Nicaragua, and by military coup or subversion, as in Chile, Argentina, Indonesia, Mozambique) seeking to protect its investments, it gradually lost ground. Armies have never really been able to protect property interests against the people.

Anti-colonialist nationalization presented a complex problem for the major corporations. For the corporations, the loss of assets in this way meant more than simply losing wealth. Because the wealth of corporate assets is represented in stock on the stock market, the value of that stock simply disappears -- melts into air, as Marx says. And this has a detrimental effect on the stock market as a whole. The stock market, in a corporativized economy, is not just a level of meta-economy. It is a real economic domain of its own, involved not just in the production and distribution of wealth but in the maintenance of corporate political power. In contradistinction, when a privately owned enterprise is expropriated by an anti-colonialist government, it doesn't have extended effects on the metropole economy. But anti-colonialist nationalization presented a communal problem for the collectivity of corporations. It effected them all.

As an aside, I might mention that it is in terms of the wealth production by the stock market itself that the corporations have allowed stock values to become wholly inflated or overblown. Two factors could be mentioned here: false or double booking, which makes the earnings and profits picture look rosier than it is (the Enron scandal was a result of this); second, the drug trade. Some people have estimated that the drug traffic in the US, which amounts to 10% of the GDP, is responsible for one third of the inflated value of stock on the stock market through the process of laundering drug moneys through corporate accounts. The fact that these two modes of stock inflation have become as general as they have is a mark both of the political weight of the community of corporations, and of their desparation to find new modes of production of capital.

One response the corporations devised to the threat of nationalization, to defend themselves against it, was to become multinational, opening production subsidiaries in different countries. With sufficient territorial diversification, the parent corporation could compensate for expropriation in one country by shifting activity to another subsidiary in a country that may have remained more compliant to foreign investment.

A second tactic, as an extension of the first, was the development of what amounted to international assembly lines. In a truly transnational production operation, one process or product is performed in one country, and the material is then moved to another country where another process on the product is performed, and then moved to a third, and so forth, until it is finished and shipped to its markets. Though each stage of this process entailed the building of a factory on some nation's land, that factory had minimal relevance to the "host" economy, since its real economic context remained production processes elsewhere on the transnational assembly line. Nationalization of these "assembly-line stages" would not give the nationalizing state an economic facility it could easily fit into its own economy, and its loss would not extensively damage the MNC's overall production process.

In a sense, the corporations did to international industrial production what had characterized the garment industry in NY earlier in the century. The garment industry was broken up into multitudes of single operation shops. The material was cut in one shop, then sewn in a second shop, embroidered in a third one, and finished in a fourth shop, to be finally taken to stores for sale. The blood stream of this industry were the garment truckers who moved the goods from one shop to the next. As a separate industry, they could potentially control the garment industry, because without them production would stop. Until the 1930s, they needed a union badly, working upwards of 16 hours a day. They were organized by the mobs (Lansky and Shapiro) during the 1930s. The mobs used the truckers' union as a way of shaking down the individual employers; the employers in turn acquiesced to a mob-run truckers' union as a way of keeping out class-conscious unionism. Under mob control, the garment truckers' union would be in business hands without looking like it was controlled by the industry.

In contemporary globalization, what forms the bloodstream of the MNCs operations is not transportation (which corporations can provide for themselves if it is not readily available) but the flow of money. It is the quick and easy computerized flow of money, the ability to move capital, profits, and financing from one place to another that has made globalized production work. Moving funds amounts to merely shifting numbers on electronic spreadsheets. And what makes this accounting process work is having a stable or unchanging international currency in which to denominate all entries. The first and absolute necessity for MNC operations, and hence for corporate globalization, is a stable international currency, one which does not undergo continual shifts in value on currency exchange markets.

That stable international currency was, up until the 1970s, the US dollar. The dollar had been established as the international reserve currency, backed by the US gold reserve in Fort Knox, by the Bretton Woods agreement of 1944. On the one hand, this meant that the dollar's value was fixed by international agreement to a certain quantity of gold; on the other, it meant that other nations could trade any dollars that accumulated in their central banks for gold at the treaty-established rate.

Until the middle of the Vietnam war, this system worked fairly well. But by 1971, it reached its critical limit. Because the US was spending so much on the war, and had been spending enormously to maintain its "Cold War" military bases all over the world, huge quantities of dollars were leaving the US and accumulating in foreign banks. Though these dollars had been exchanged for gold all along, by the late 1960s, with more countries demanding gold exchanges, it constituted an unacceptible gold drain on the US. It threatened to deplete the US gold reserves to the point where they would no longer be sufficient for the legal reserve requirements of domestic currency usage. Though the US asked other countries not to pursue such exchanges, the gold drain continued, simply as the logic of international competition. When another nation extracted gold from Fort Knox through currency exchange, it weakened the dollar and strengthen the recipient nation's currency. But two nations in particular had begun demanding gold in very large quantities. One was France; the other was the USSR. Thus, along with the inter-imperialist rivalry between the US and Europe, the gold drain became a new element in the Cold War.

In 1971, the US government decided to put a stop to this; it took the dollar off the gold standard, proclaiming its gold no longer exchangeable. This left the currency unstable. This threw every multinational corporation into total crisis. It was like obstructing their essential bloodstream. Without a stable currency to rely on, all tranfer of funds became contingent on unpredictable exchange rates. Each fall in the value of the dollar on the international exchange markets diminished both the capital values and the profits they had made and accounted for in dollars in foreign accounts. They started losing a lot of money.

At first, the US tried to stabilize the dollar through legislated currency exchange rates. That didn't work; the glut of dollars on international markets forced the dollar's value down against that statutory rate. So, in 1973, the dollar was allowed to float, and the US attempted to stabilize it by exchanging Treasury bonds for dollars. This didn't solve the problem either. The dollar crisis, tied as it was to military spending, became so dire that, in 1973, a number of major corporations (led by IBM and Xerox) turned against the war in Vietnam, and told the US government to get out of that war.

Three factors thus came together to end the war in Vietnam, forcing the US to accept defeat and get out. The first was the Vietnamese resistance, organized in the knowledge that no military force could defeat the people. The second was the US anti-war movement; it had sufficiently infiltrated and influenced the army to turn it into an essentially non-combatant force. The third was the crisis in capital values produced by military spending itself that turned business against the war.

In response to this crisis, the MNCs organized that infamous thinktank called the Trilateral Commission (TLC). This was a thinktank of economists, politicians, and corporate executives from the US, Europe, and Japan. Led by David Rockefeller of the Chase Manhattan Bank, and by Xerox and IBM, the purpose of the TLC was to devise an alternate means of defending the empire, other than war or gunboat diplomacy. The TLC was a ruthless body that rapidly became known for its theorizations of the use of starvation as a political weapon for international purposes. It also theorized the necessity of controlling the press, and not allowing liberation or pro-democracy movements to become strong, or even survive outside of EuroAmerican tutelage or control. It condemned the civil rights and anti-war movements in the US as representing an "excess" of democracy. [cf. Samuel
Huntington, "The Crisis of Democracy," 1975]

The TLC was also a politically powerful body. Organized in 1973, by 1976 it already put its man in the White House (Jimmy Carter). And when Carter balked at some of its dictates late in his adminstration, the TLC easily changed horses, backing a more malleable man for president (Reagan), and exercising policy control through the vice-president (Bush I). (These are essentially the differential roles of Bush II and Cheney today.)

In the face of the fact that military intervention against national liberation movements had become self-defeating, the TLC developed a three point program to defend the empire. The first point was to stabilize the dollar. The second was to provide a means of influencing or controlling local politics in any area of the world through trade and financial means. And the third was to build a Transnational Political Structure whose constituency or citizenry would be the MNCs themselves.

This program appeared feasible to the corporate representatives at the TLC because they considered themselves to have sufficient power as major economic entities. In many cases, they were larger than most nation states (GM at that time was the fifth largest economy in the world). The task they had to perform was to centralize and computerize control over international economic processes, such as imports, exports, exchange rates, interest rates, etc. If they could use their control of economic factors sufficiently to control internal politics anywhere on the globe, they would not need to resort to military intervention. The resulting cut-back on overseas military spending would thus restabilize the dollar.

In effect, the Trilateral program presented itself as a project for a new form of corporate global domination separated by an increasingly wide chasm from any and all human constituencies. I focus on this not to point out its anti-democratic nature; capitalism is fundamentally an anti-democratic control of people through property anyway. But I hope to show that the change of structure of that control presents a different set of political necessities for any anti-capitalist effort then those inherited from the past. We have to know what we are facing. On the other hand, just because the TLC projected these three goals for themselves doesn't mean that they have necessarily been successful to the extent they planned. But we have to understand the degree to which they have been, and where and why they may not have been.

The first goal was to stabilize the dollar. Their initial attempt was through the issuance of US Treasury bonds. The US government would exchange T-bonds for dollars accumulated in foreign national banks, hopefully removing the accumulated glut of dollars from foreign exchange markets, and preventing that glut's deflation of the dollar's value on those markets. But to substitute T-bonds denominated in dollars for gold as the new international backing for the dollar was at best a form of sleight-of-hand, and at worst a ponzi scheme. Ultimately, this was only of limited success.

By 1979, a more concrete response to the dollar crisis was developed. The US managed to put the dollar on an oil standard, replacing the lost commodity standard (gold) with another real commodity. And oil was projected to only increase in value as the world industrialized. This move was accomplished through a little country called Kuwait.

Kuwait sat on an enormous oil reserve. The ruling Al-Sabah family of Kuwait agreed to set up an investment office that would buy or absorb dollars from the currency exchange markets and invest them in industrial enterprises around the world. Then they would exchange oil for those dollars as they accumulated in foreign national banks, and reinvest them again. The result would be to remove dollars from the exchange markets, and peg them to the value of oil.

This was why, during the early 1980s after the Iran-Iraq war had started, Reagan made the amazing statement that if anything happened to Kuwait tankers in the Persian Gulf, the US would reflag those tankers as US tankers, and consider the attack on them to be an attack on the US. At the time, this was difficult to understand; why all of sudden such an interest in Kuwait tankers? It was because they represented the stability of the international dollar.

It should be noted that this activity on the part of Kuwait also made it a spoiler in OPEC, consistently voting for lower rather than higher oil prices. The reason is that Kuwait started gaining most of its national income from industrial revenues rather than oil sales. In general, industrial revenue varies inversely with the price of oil. When oil goes up, revenues go down, and vice versa. So Kuwait voted for lower oil prices in order to increase those industrial revenues for itself.

When the Soviet Union collaped in 1990, the US saw its chance to gain direct control of this dollar stabilizing mechanism by taking this new Fort Knox away from the Arab family that administered it. The US engineered a sting operation on Iraq to produce an Iraqi invasion into Kuwait, and then organized an international campaign to oust Iraq from Kuwait, thereby taking it over. The target of the Gulf War of 1991 was Kuwait and not iraq. The US could have simply bought Hussein off after the invasion of Kuwait for one fifth of the money it spent organizing the military campaign. But it had a different reason for building that international campaign. It spent the money, organized a huge assault designed to destroy the social infrastructure of Iraq, and refused any negotiations with Iraq, in order to both take over Kuwait and eliminate the one source of a competing claim to Kuwaiti territory, namely, Iraq itself (Kuwait had once been a province of Iraq). The US got the other countries to go along with the attack by buying them through debt relief or various trade advantages. It has seized direct control of this new Fort Knox, still using the Al-Sabah family as administrators, and proclaimed its military base and presence in Kuwait to be permanent.

That was the outcome of the first point of the TLC's program to stabilize the currency. The second was how to control the internal politics in any country without needing recourse to military adventures.

The MNCs knew they had the size and power to centralize and computerize control over imports, exports, exchange rates and interest rates. What they needed to know was how to make it work. An economist who teaches at Berkeley, Laura D'Andrea Tyson, worked out the mathematical formulas for a pilot project (tested during the mid-80s). The pilot project was to create 10% unemployment in a country in which there was very little if any at all. If they could do that, it would translate immediately into a very nuanced means of exercising political control on another country. Tyson's formulas were tested, and they worked. They created 10% unemployment in a country in which there had been very little. That country was Yugoslavia. In effect, they picked a particularly difficult case. Yugoslavia was a small country, but one in which there was a high degree of socialization or nationalization of the economy, giving the state extensive political control over employment in general.

These modes of economic pressure were the first step in giving the MNCs control over nations and their internal politics. It is essentially a mode of publicly imperceptible control. Only their ultimate weapon, the embargo, comes to public notice. The idea of the embargo is to starve the people of a country into withdrawing support from the local government, allowing EuroAmerican states and corporations to dictate political terms directly. It is a mode of international dehumanization reminiscent of the dehumanization inherent in the corporate structure itself. It was the first weapon used against the Cuban revolution in 1960 -- which was tightened after the Soviet Union fell. When the MNC's financial machinations didn't work against Zimbabwe in 2000, they embargoed it. When they didn't work on Libya, they embargoed it. Cuba has managed to withstand the embargo because the most fundamental idea of its entire revolutionary process has been its uncompromising defense of its national sovereignty. Local sovereignty as a principle stands in primary dialectical opposition to the economic machinations of control of corporate globalization.

The project of controlling local politics through international corporate economic power has since been institutionalized, for its day to day operations, in the form of Structural Adjustment Programs (SAP). During the 1990s, when post-colonial nations sought to develop industrially or with respect to certain international markets for the goods or resources they produced, they had to go to the IMF to obtain funds. The IMF and the World Bank had been organized as financial institutions to centralize the international availability of funds. The IMF could prevent a nation from receiving funds from other sources through that process of centralization. And it would lend funds only if the recipient country would accept its "recommendations" for internal structural change. These generally included the privatization of social assets, the elimination of laws granting labor rights, the cancallation of subsidies to the local enterprises, the removal of supports for local economies, and the reduction of any protective mechanisms that might obstruct foreign corporate investment or profitability. In other words, the SAP was designed to render the recipient economy totally vulnerable to and profitable for corporate investment. The SAPs constitute the present-day means whereby the second point of the TLCs 1973 program has been instituted.

Of course, the poverty engendered by this process, which has decimated the local economies by which the vast majority of the world's people have supported themselves, has been horrendous. By the turn of the century, over 33000 children were dying of starvation every day in the world because of corporate investment and the SAPs. And that's just children. Entire national economies have been disrupted and enslaved to debt service to the IMF and the World Bank. That is the legacy of the TLC's second point.

The third component of the TLC program, the development of a trans-national political structure (TPS) was a program for politically structuring corporate control of the global economy. The building of a TPS was added to the GATT (tariff and trade) negotiations that had been in progress from before the 70s. The purpose of the GATT negotiations was originally to equalize or retune global tariffs and export regulations in the interests of the corporate economy. But after 1973, it shifted its focus to the more inclusive question of global governance. The WTO has been the main result. What the WTO materialized on a global scale was the original granting of personhood to corporations in the US in the 1880s. Where that earlier event initiated rendering the corporations Class A citizenry, and reducing real humans to Class B citizenship, for the WTO, the corporations were to be the only citizens. As citizens of a global political structure, the corporations became a community of artificial entities that would run the world while divorced politically from any structural connection to human constituencies.

Not only has the community of corporations consolidated itself through its organization of a TPS, but it has brought about a transformation in the nature of the state (not eliminating the state, but transforming it). Under the aegis of the TPS, national governments have been divested of their role as human political space; in its stead, the role of middle management with respect to TPS global governance has been substituted -- like the middle-management or intermediary administrative units of a single corporation. The double hiatus (of global corporate governance and representationism) that today exists between human constituencies and nation-states as foreclosed political spaces implies that the traditional idea that people acting through their respective governments can influence the course of local events is today null and void. As in any corporation, pressure on middle management will not change corporate policy. For people to change the conditions under which people live, they will have to sidestep and sweep aside that middle management, and reinvent a political space for themselves.

First, we must recognize that the TLC is not in control. It had never been a source of power. It is a thinktank, a body that creates strategies and programs. The developments that we discern and call "corporate globalization" have been pursuant to strategies that were consciously worked out, as ways of dealing with a particular crisis. If the TPS has been a step in overcoming the anarchy of capitalism and of capitalist production -- the ability of capital to accumulate -- it has also been the midwife of a shift in class relations as well. More on that in a moment.

Second, what is new about the WTO is its character as a legislative body. Composed of representatives of national governments and corporate interests, its purpose is to make regulations that enhance or insure the profitability of corporate investment anywhere in the world. As a treaty organization, its decisions will not simply be recommendations or the projections of a corporate thinktank; they will be binding on its member signatory nation-states. For instance, Article 6 of the US Constitution says that the treaties signed by the US government become part of the law of the land at the same juridical level as the Constitution itself. That means that the WTO's economic decisions take precedence over local decisions concerning economic, labor, or environmental policy. In particular, local labor conditions that would interfere with corporate profitability would be null and void, and would have to be repealed. Yet such superseding decisions are not to be made by representatives of the local constituencies affected.

In other words, the WTO makes local democracy impossible. This is what brought 50,000 people to Seattle in Nov. 1999. That's what brought thousands of people to Miami and Cancun and the other places where the WTO, or the G8, or other bodies of the TPS, have tried to meet. What those demonstrations represent is a real global pro-democracy movement whose central principle is defending the sovereignty of peoples and nations. And what they are opposing is the social extension of the process by which corporate personhood progressively renders human beings politically irrelevant.

But more importantly, these demonstrations have not simply given the WTO a hard time. They have had some important affects. The disruptions of the WTO conference in Seattle, by interrupting the pre-programmed agenda of the industrial nations, opened political space for the representatives of third world nations to coalesce and say no to that agenda. Nations that had been dominated by their own servitude to IMF debt began to cooperate as a bloc and put a halt to EuroAmerican hegemonic projects. This form of resistance at high governmental level has had spin-off affects. Brazil was able to block the FTAA. The OAS has escaped from direct US control. The Shanghai Cooperative Organization, founded by China, India, and Russia in 2000, has pulled central Asia out from under US domination imposed in the wake of 911, and has begun building an alternate financial center in competition with the World Bank and the IMF.

Neveretheless, though these structural contradictions exist at high political levels, the reality of class conflict exists, though it too has been globalized by the change in the structure of governance at the global level. Anti-capitalist movements would ignore the political implications of these changes in class relations at their peril. To think that capitalism remains the same old thing in different form would be to misunderstand the shifts in the central principles adopted and called for by a centralized global corporate state (the TPS). To struggle against economic interests locally will mean to be blindsided global politics, and to struggle against the state local will means to be blindsided by global economics. Neither will be sufficient to throw off the new forms of governance.

The centrality of the concept of sovereignty, for instance, does not pertain simply to the post-colonial situation; it is an essential principle for struggles inside the US itself, as the experience of the Teamsters, and the removal of their elected TDU president Carey by the US government, clearly demonstrates.

Finally, we must recognize that we most clearly apprehend the nature of class relations by regarding where the heat is at any historical momement. And where the heat is today, defused around the globe is not only between the US and the local resistance of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Venezuela, but between the indigenous of South America and the form of the nation-state itself. That is, the heat is not between the traditionally defined working class and industrial capitalism. Nor is it between colonized people and colonialist nations as it was during the period of national liberation revolutions -- which indeed swept the globe using class alliances, peasant armies, and political movements on all continents, including, in the US, civil rights, black power, AIM, La Raza, the Black Liberation Army, etc.

Today, the heat is coming from the people of various countries in conflict with corporate interests, as in Ecuador and Bolicia, and to the US military, as in Iraq, as a single struggle. To the extent the TPS has brought about a change in both the nation-state and the major class relations of the world, as evinced by where the heat is, the forms and goals of class struggle exist in different dimensions of global politics. The peoples subjected to neo-colonialism are fighting by a variety of means. In Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico, there are movements for local autonomy, cooperativism, alternate political structures. Though separated geographically, these peoples are no longer acting alone; the process of restructuring governance in Venezuela, and the struggle against US occupation in Iraq, have provided tremensous existential support for each other, despite the absence of intentional alliances or cooperations. Instead, it is the fact that all people of the world are facing the same enemy that has determined where the heat is. It is the transformations in global governance, the changes this has made to local governance, the demand, in the face of corporate demands for an elimination of sovereignty everwhere but in their own TPS, that has led to an upsurge of rebellion and a construction of new types of soveriegnty around the world.

In short, the main class conflict is between the people of the world (not simply industrial working classes, but rural farming people, autonomous economies, and nation-states of formerly colonized areas) against a corporate structure that has not only been globalized but reorganized in a TPS. The US understands this very well. After the Soviet Union fell, when it openly proclaimed that, as a military economy, it needed enemies to maintain itself, and that other enemies would have to be found, it already knew that it faced the people of the world, as precisely those whom it had to dominate on a globalized scale. Thus, it dismantled no bases, it diminished no military appropriations, it abandoned no military presesnce in the world, it jettisoned no weapons systems. Instead, it started speaking about "rogue states" -- certainly looking in the mirror when doing so -- as a way of both creating enemies and generating a sentiment of "defensiveness" and social paranoia among its own people.