A Critique of the Bamako Appeal

Steve Martinot San Francisco State University, U.S.A.

X http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/papers2006/martinot_bamakoENG.htm (external link)

There are a number of ideas that are conspicuously absent from the Bamako Appeal, and it is that absence which effectively defines the politics of the appeal.

One can name the following issues for which at least a gesture of critique remains absent: the corporate structure and corporate personhood , the ethics of corporate profitability, representationism as a total corruption of representative democracy, white supremacy as the culture of colonialism and corporate economy, and the idea of sovereignty in the extended sense it has acquired recently beyond that of "national sovereignty."

These absences might seem somewhat obscure, but they are glaring in the Bamako Appeal because it presents itself as a call for a solidarist, anti-capitalist globally coordinated movement against neo-liberalism. And neo-liberalism is not only based upon rampant capitalist exploitation of the world and its people on a class basis; it is a form of rampant capitalist exploitation based on the corporate domination of all political structures, exclusive corporate citizenship in a global political structure, the predominance of the profitability of corporate property over all other forms, the prioritization of property rights over humans rights and the value of human beings, the use of the nation-state and representationism as a foil to prevent democracy, and the white supremacy implicit in western ( EuroAmerican) control of global finances and resources (even with respect to Japan , insofar as the US tends to look at Japanese investment and finance as a " problem"?).

In other words, if the Bamako statement wished to live up to its calling , it would have to address all these issues. To leave unaddressed the idea that corporations have been raised to the level of global citizenship, rendering human beings politically irrelevant, and to leave uncritiqued the structures of those corporations and the political means they wield for this purpose ( representationism and racialization ) is to leave the neo- liberalism structure ideologically unscathed while attempting to oppose it.

All this is, of course, beside the fact that on the more pragmatic level , the statement hardly mentions racism, (and it speaks of the rights of "minorities" without blushing, without the recognition that the concept of "minority" itself might be an extension of white supremacy ), nor does it contest the sanctity of property or property rights . It speaks of democracy in total abstraction, without even raising the question of proportional representation. And it mentions cooperative enterprises only in passing, in order to place them in competition with corporations.

Corporate structure

The corporate structure is the original structure of capitalism. When capitalism arose in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, it did so through the conquest of agrarian cooperative societies and the conquest of the Americas . The necessary commercial and political conditions for promulgating and consolidating these events of conquest were that enterprises establish monopoly control of trade and the enslavement of labor for particular areas.

Such conditions required a corporate structure for political licensing and sufficient economic size for the task of development. Conversely, because the corporate structure has the weight of the state behind it, the state itself developed through these extensions of itself to monopolized production and commerce, and slavery. Competition and wage labor were luxuries capitalism could only afford after it had reach a certain level of development .

The Bamako Appeal does not understand the corporate structure. It thinks that the purpose of democracy in an enterprise is to break the dictatorship of shareholders. Shareholder control of corporations is a myth .

Shareholders are people with an interest, but they choose who will express that interest by buying and selling shares, not by exercising control. For the machinery of the corporation, shareholders are simply people who are as irrelevant and dispensible as any other individuals . The corporation needs people only to fill positions in its stratefied administrative structure — to take orders from above; to give orders to those below; and to not care what happens to those below . Should a person cease to operate in any of these three capacities , s/he would be removed. What controls the corporation is a complex of interests defined by market share conquest, stock market value , debt, profit marginals, and flexibility of investment. Internally, people are reduced to status holders within that structure of interest (all the way to the top). Shareholders remain outside the stratified administrative structure, and thus have no status. Even the unions operate within it; through the labor contract, they are conscripted as a policing agency over the labor force, as that which will enforce the terms of the contract.

If the reduction of personhood to irrelevancy is the primary evil of the corporation (substituting itself for the citizenry in the nation-state ), its second evil is its abjuring of all social responsibility — to the planet, to its society, and to the people who work within its structure. It is thus inimical to any democratic thinking . Yet, by its size and wealth, it controls all political structures that admit its existence. It is not really possible to oppose capitalism, or speak of democracy, without including a critique of the corporation as the major structure of injustice one is up against .

The Bamako Appeal not only does not critique the corporate structure , or oppose the existence of corporations, it doesn't even oppose the rights of property to profit. If it does this on the basis of advancing the possibility of a united front, in order to include certain capitalists, it has arrogated to itself the right to speak globally about something (united fronts) that can only be local affairs , in which people must make their own judgments as to who to ally with and who not to (regardless of whether they are right or wrong in this; it is they who have to live with the effects). To tailor one's analysis of capitalism to fit a global attitude toward united fronts is to already abrogate the autonomy and sovereignty of people that are the very foundation of a united front.

In not contesting the rights of property, the Bamako Appeal shows itself to be a liberal document.

Corporate personhood

Corporate personhood is the elevation of the corporate stucture to an onto-political level above that of the human. It allows corporations to function politically in ways that individuals cannot, while pretending to be only persons. They shove people aside by their size, and assume control of political process, especially in a representative democracy , rendering people irrelevant to the political process. But corporate personhood remains an absurdity because trumped at every turn by corporate abrogation of social responsibility.

To the extent that corporations take over as the constituency of a nation-state , reducing humans to subjugated irrelevance, they represent a new form of chauvinism. This chauvinism follows directly from the prioritization of property over people (the liberal ethos, as well as the slave system), and is homologous to white supremacy. That is, it dehumanizes humans in order to monopolize for itself the character of being human, just as white supremacy dehumanizes those it defines as non-white in order to monopolize the character of being human for whites . This is the chauvinism that essentially preserves the racialization of relations between EuroAmerican? capitalism and the ( post)colonial world.

We see this in the operations of the IMF in imposing SAPs on third world countries, producing massive starvation by delivering those economies in thrall into the hands of corporations. We have been taught to blame the problems of the third world on sellout national leadership and the games if plays with capitalism, but not on the white supremacy of the corporations' relation to those economies, nor its conscientious destruction (in the name of modernism and development) of the cultural matrices that are essential to personal survival in those countries. By blaming corrupt or dictatorial third world national leadership, the corporations can continue to account for the people they kill as of no value . The ethics of profitability, the social operations of white supremacy , and the absence of social responsibility of corporations all come together in the murderousness of corporate control.

One cannot oppose neo-liberalism and leave all this out of account .

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