English version from "A - rivista anarchica" issue 274 summer 2001
a cura di / Editors: Adriano Paolella e Zelinda Carloni
English translation by Catherine Roberts
Thanks to Leslie Ray
"A online": [ http://www.anarca-bolo.ch/a-rivista ]
[ Normal version ]
[ Italian version ]



Ideas for understanding, living with
and opposing the new model of profit-making




1. Fundamental characteristics of the model



Expansion of the market

The market is expanded by increasing per capita consumption, by augmenting the number of consumers, by augmenting the range and amount of goods available.

Increasing per capita consumption
Per capita consumption increases according to the mechanism of advertising and the construction of images which make products "necessary". According to this mechanism, the economic profile of individuals is defined (by geographical area, culture and type) as are the types of goods which will stimulate acquisition and therefore increase consumption beyond every plausible limit. The market of "desire" is far more immense than that of necessity.
During the past 25 years consumption has increased by 2.3% every year [1]. The majority of North Americans and Europeans are "turkeys" who eat far more than they need, who eat for neuroses and because their defence against market forces is weak. Every year in the US the food industry spends 30 billion dollars on advertising, more than any other sector; in France, Belgium and Austria food products are also the most heavily publicised. The products attracting the most advertising are those which are "sweet and fattening", as they are greater stimulants, create greater dependence and guarantee larger profit margins [2].

Increasing the number of consumers
This increase is obtained by extending the limits of the so-called middle classes, and the geographical boundaries of potential consumers. The only limit to this expansion is imposed by the need to maintain pockets of poverty, even within the richest countries, to ensure low-cost manual labour.
In industrialised countries, (taking part in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD]) there are 100 million poor, 37 million people without paid employment, more than 100 million homeless people and 8% of children live below
the poverty line [1].

Increasing the range and quantity of goods available
Goods which are produced account for only a part of the market. To encourage exchange and guarantee profit everything is commercialised – including public resources and profoundly personal experience: water, sex, knowledge, nature.
From 1985 to 1996 commercial exchanges throughout the world rose from 315 billion to 6000 billion dollars [3].
There is a huge global business of sexual tourism, involving 800,000 children in Thailand, 500,000 in India, 100,000 in Taiwan, 60,000 in the Philippines etc. Every year 300,000 Germans take part in this type of tourism and 25,000 Australians travel to the Philippines.
The consumption of mineral water (the privatisation of a public resource) has increased many times over in the past twenty years (in the USA, 9 times more mineral water was consumed in 1998 than in 1978).

The patent on nature
There are three WTO agreements which pose a potential problem for nations in maintaining and enforcing their own protective laws regarding GMOs (genetically modified organisms): SPS, TBT, TRIP. The first two impose a heavy burden on governments who decide to limit the entrance of GMOs in their own countries and threaten commercial sanctions on behalf of the WTO regarding autonomous or multilateral solutions to the problem of GMOs.
The TRIP accord (Trade-related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) uses the possibility of patenting to sanction the rights of big businesses to intellectual property, which applies to pharmaceutical products, chemical products for agriculture, to botanical varieties and the germoplasma of seeds even those derived from centuries of traditional cultivation and hybridisation of plants. In addition, the accord upholds the right of ownership of micro-organisms, including human and animal cells and genes, and the cells of the umbilical cord.
In practice, the TRIP accord further aggravates the precarious security of world food production, creating problems of access to and distribution of food and seeds. When a business patents a seed, small local farmers have to pay an annual sum for the right to use it, even when the seed is a product of the methods carried out for generations by these same farmers.
This is biopiracy, or the plundering of nature and of indigenous knowledge.

Patents are too costly for poorer countries
The Gaia foundation, an English environmental association, is contacted by a Namibian NGO seeking advice concerning a patent for a local plant with medicinal properties, in an attempt to prevent biopiracy on the part of multinational pharmaceutical companies. Following research into costs, Gaia reaches the conclusion that the patent would be prohibitively expensive and beyond the means of a collective with scarce financial means.
A poor community who wants to ensure ownership of indigenously developed forms of local plants has to register the patent in all developed countries; so, to request, obtain and maintain a patent, farmers and local communities face exorbitant expenses: the study reveals that 10 patents, valid in 52 countries for only one invention, cost around 500,000 dollars. In addition, the study calculates the extra costs which would have to be confronted should the patent have to be defended in court, where payment falls solely on the defenders of the patent, not on the challengers. "It becomes clear, from these figures, that in no way could a Namibian community afford the luxury of a patent. Patents, and the prohibitive costs they involve, are the realm of the rich and powerful." [7]

Weakening communities

The community, apart from having disintegrated culturally, has become extremely limited in decision-making power. Those with capital intervene directly at a community level, bypassing every filter put in place to defend national interests or even laws. Until recently, big economic groups directed the choices made by governments ostensibly from a subordinate position; today, they openly declare their managerial and practical superiority in economic terms, and on this basis claim to be well fitted for the cultural and social management of society, giving their indications accordingly. Currently, no state has the possibility of directing or controlling what happens in the market. No check of any sort can be made on the operators: everything that responds to market logic is good, whatever its effects on the population and the environment. People have been cut off from their ability to choose, given that the central aspects of their existence are decided according to exclusively economic criteria, and that parallel to the social and political structure in which they live there is an "organisation" which has no fixed base, of which the participants are not known, which does not inform the wider public of its operations, not even superficially. Much of the power of governments, already far removed from the people they govern, has been surrendered to bodies such as the World Bank (WB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which are in turn dominated by parties who come from at most a dozen countries, but who are principally from the USA.
2000 billion dollars worth of transactions take place every day while 300-350 billion dollars was the sum of all the reserves of all the G7 banks in 1999 [8].
Mitsubishi's five companies have made sales for an annual sum of 320 billion dollars (around a tenth of the Japanese Gross Domestic Product; for reference, the GDP of Italy is 1141 billion dollars, Argentina 295 billion dollars [17]) and they are interconnected by means of common policies on price, production, commercialisation and public social and economic policies; their common agent is the Liberaldemocrat party of which they finance 37% of expenses [10].
In 1975 around 80% of monetary transactions related to real business (buying and selling resources or products, investment); 20% were of a speculative nature. At the end of the century around 2.5% of transactions relate to real business, while the remaining 97.5% are speculative. The concentration of capital, the enormous increase in the size of the market, the lack of limits to circulation of investment expose states to the aggression of operators; unexpected sales of currency take entire countries into monetary crisis (the crisis of the pound sterling in 1991, of the Scandinavian currency in 1992 & 93, of various Asian currencies in 1997). All of which means an enormous subjection of politics to private interests [10].

The institution is a "legal personality" and its rules are binding for members. The organisation is based on decision-making commissions, panels composed of three commercial experts with no involvement on the part of the public. Decisions are automatically ratified unless all members of the organisation are against them. If the laws of a state violate the organisation's rules those laws must be repealed, if not commercial sanctions are applied: there are at least 160 national laws which have already been modified in a number of countries to comply with the rules. The Organisation has established the limits for environmental and food standards, and security; if national standards are more restrictive - not if they are less - they can be put under inquiry. The treaty set up by the Organisation is composed of 22,000 pages and, as Ralph Nader points out, these texts substantiate a government of the world economy dominated by entrepreneurial giants, without providing a parallel set of democratic rules which permit it to be controlled [9].
No state has joined the Organisation following parliamentary debate, no state has stimulated a public discussion involving its citizens, no one has arranged factual information.

The WTO plan for developing countries
The WTO pushes towards the economic globalisation of companies. As a result, vast segments of the population and the economies of developing countries are catapulted into the global market. This strategy has alarming consequences for 75% of the world's population who still live by subsistence farming. One of the aims of the WTO is to transform, as quickly as possible, these rural economies into market economies with a broad circulation of money. To function in this way rural villages and entire countries would have to renounce their independent production of food and other products of prime necessity. Production would be entirely destined for the world market, in such a way as to earn money to buy food and other essentials.
If the agreements of the WTO were to be fully respected and the import taxes or the productivity taxes were to be fully imposed upon developing countries, 2 billion people would be driven out of the agricultural sector, going, as has become abundantly evident, to enlarge the queues of an urban workforce which, seeing as it is constantly replenished, would certainly
be at low cost [7].

The reduction of difference

Social systems, like those in nature, are structured to allow the maximum utilisation of local resources without leading to self-destruction, on the contrary,allowing the perpetuation of the possibility of using these resources; they have therefore diversified in various ways – in traditions, cultures, techniques – optimising their characteristics on the basis of their situation in a particular time and place. To standardise these individuals, their cultivations, techniques results in maximum profit for a select few, but destroys social and natural systems, imposing a unified but abstract model. This is a model of high energy consumption and reduced efficiency, which is ignorant of local conditions but very effective at using resources intensively. It broadens the market for preconfectioned goods which leads to the weakening and collapse of local systems, the reduction and then loss of their social autonomy.
Of all the varieties of agriculturally grown vegetable listed for the USA in 1900, only 3% have survived.
Of the more than 30,000 varieties of rice grown in India at the beginning of the 19th century, only 50 remained by the mid-twentieth century of which 10 took up 3/4 of the country's rice paddies [6].
In the 19th century the number of languages spoken worldwide was 15,000; at the end of the 20th century, less than 6000. One person in 5 speaks English, and for 80% of these people, English is a second language (cultural imperialism); 2/3 of scientists
work in English.
In Brazil in the 16th century there were around 8 million people distributed through 1400 tribes. Today there are 350,000 indios
in 215 tribes [10].



2. Principles upon which the system model is based



The myth of progress

The proposed society is one in progress, a society which seeks new solutions, new techniques, where innovations are always seen as potential instruments for improvement. It is a society heading towards the future, with a great past but no present. The Lakota, a North American people, had a stable society. They didn't progress but they had found, and they stuck to, the best way of living. Western society, with the myth of progress, hypothesises the ever greater satisfaction of needs (actual or induced) as if this would lead automatically to the greatest possible happiness. On the basis of this logic offences are committed against other people, for whom this pursuit of happiness is not a possibility, and against nature. The presumed happiness of Western society is paid for directly by the populations of the Third World and indirectly by all of us in terms of the damage done to nature and the environment. Progress leads to innovation, the main aim of which is monetary gain; since it is not asked for by the public at large, such innovation does not respond to actual necessities or desires but suggests that there are new desires and necessities to be fulfilled. The rhythm of evolution responds to the evolution of capital and not to that of human beings, so that we are constantly pressured by the need to earn more, for a greater turnover of goods and this frenzy determines a timescale which does not respond to that of the individual.
A society which progresses in this way is an unhappy society.

The aim of science

Scientific research does not look towards a common social goal. It turns in whichever direction funding takes it, funding which comes predominantly from the economic apparatus of the world market, and which is concerned above all by the necessity of profit-making. GMOs, for instance, have not been developed to combat problems of food-production, which are in fact problems of food distribution, given that 80% of malnourished children from developing countries live in nations that produce an excess of food [2]. Rather, they have been developed for profit – to concentrate the production of crops under controlled and controllable conditions even further and to increase productivity per hectare and thus the profit of those already producing and selling food.

Material well-being

Well-being is understood and lived as an individual fact, as something to be attained through acquiring goods. In a survey carried out in the USA in 1997 concerning the desires and the requirements of Americans, it emerged that in response to the question "what brings you happiness", 85% of the sample referred to material possessions (holiday house, pool, second tv, air conditioner etc.). There is no well-being that cannot be translated into material goods and no judgement that is not economic judgement.

Cultural participation in the model

The mechanics activated by this social model mean that it is not only shared but hoped for, desired and eagerly awaited by the population in the majority of countries. The model is diffused by means of the images transmitted via advertising, video and other media: a superficial world, apparently without problems but full of sex, personal power and colour. An apparent world. Participation goes so deep that, even when negative effects are brought to general attention, these become submerged by the sensual pleasure of the system.

Indifference to resources

In working out the global ecological footprint (a method by which we can make comparisons between humanity's demands on nature and the capacity of the Earth to supply resources and assimilate waste) it is calculated that for every inhabitant of the earth, 2 - 2.2 "area units" are available (one area unit is the equivalent of one hectare of world average productivity). But the actual demand is equal to 2.85 "area units" per capita (Italy needs 5.6 "area units" per person as opposed to the available 1.92; in the USA, 12.22 "area units" are needed as opposed to 5.57 available) [11]. This means that resources are being used up at a rate of 30% more than we have available and this excess can be verified by looking at the quantity of polluting waste material, at the destruction of natural systems and at the indiscriminate use of resources at a greater rate than they can be replenished.



3. The outcome of the model



Reduction of diversity, increase in inequality

While on the one hand there is a tendency towards a reduction of the diversity between individuals, on the other there is an increase in the inequality between rich and poor: the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The difference between rich and poor is recorded by individual, by geographical area, by state. Acting upon nations is the primary mechanism by which poverty can be diffused: putting them into debt, allowing internal groups to take advantage of this, maintaining rich businesses by means of the debt accrued by poor nations. One of the mechanisms used to increase profits is to limit control of world production and commerce to a small number of organisations: the same goods distributed throughout the world.
20% of the world's population consumes 86% of the goods produced. The remaining 80% of the population consume only 14%. The richest 20% of the world's population, in 1961 had an income 30 times greater than that of the poorest 20%, in 1991 it was 61 times greater, and in 1999 they had at their disposal 86% of the world GDP while the poorest 20% had access to a mere 1% [8]. 2.8 billion individuals live on less than 2 dollars a day, 1.2 billion live on less than 1 dollar a day and 1.1 billion are undernourished [4].
In 1999, on the Kenyan pineapple plantations owned by Del Monte, a manual labourer earned ITL3000 per day (the price of 3kg of corn meal)¸ in 1998 in Indonesia the factory workers employed by Nike were paid less than ITL 64000 for 270 hours a month (equal to 31% of the amount needed to satisfy the basic needs of a family of four) [12]. The cost of labour for a pair of Nike shoes is 1.96% of the total price, the shareholders' profits amount to 3.53%, the taxes and duties are 20.4% and the retailers' margin is 41.42%. [5].
In the USA in 1975 the average wage of a top-level manager was 41 times greater than the average wage of factory and office workers; in the 1990's it was 187 times greater [8]; the richest 1.1% of the population possesses 48% of the country's capital while another 80% possesses only 6%; it is not by chance that between 1973 and 1993 the income of the richest 10% of the population increased by 22% while that of the poorest 10% decreased by 21% [3].
The increase of profits on goods has increased exponentially: of what is paid for coffee, 87% remains in the North, 13% returns to the producing country (state, exporters, wholesalers, hulling factory) and of this only 3% goes to the farmers [3].
The number of starving people is more or less the same as the number of people who are overfed: at least 1.2 billion people. In the USA 55%, in Russia 54%, in England 51% and in Germany 50% of the population eat too much; meanwhile, in Bangladesh 56%, India 53%, Ethiopia 48% and Vietnam 40% of the population do not have enough food [13].
The 200 largest multinational companies are from 9 countries including Japan (92), USA (53), Germany (23), France (19) [10]. In 1992 these companies had a turnover equal to 26.7% of the world GNP (Gross National Product) and the first 10 of these companies control a third of the activity of the100 largest companies. In 1992 General Motors and Exxon had a turnover of 132 and 117 billion dollars respectively, more or less equal to the GDP of Malaysia and Chile respectively (136 and 117 billion dollars) [19].
In 1989, 19% of the global production of automobiles was realised by 20 multinational companies; 90% of the world's pharmaceutical material by seven companies; 85% of tyres by 6; 92% of glass, 87% of tobacco and 79% of cosmetics by five; 41% of insurance, 44% of advertising and 54% of IT by eight multinational companies [19]

Loans: a strategy for social control
Between 1980 and 1996 the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa paid their foreign debt two times over; today they are three times more in debt (253 billion dollars in 1997 as compared to 84 billion in 1980, and in the meantime they have paid 170 billion dollars towards the debt).
The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund collect enormous amounts of money from (poor) indebted countries, amounts far greater than the original loans, and they use this to control the internal politics of countries by imposing structural adjustments upon single countries (dismissals, opening to the activity of multinationals, privatisation) and by means of further loans and other destabilising methods, they reduce or destroy completely any political or social autonomy.
Operations such as "Drop the Debt" fail to consider the key part played by debt in the management of the resources of these countries by the rich and powerful and concrete results are marginal and confused. The WB and IMF have announced that they will finance with up to 7 billion dollars initiatives which facilitate the payment of debt in the poorest countries, but that debt adds up to 200 billion dollars, the same amount as can be swallowed by the Asian stock market in a single month's trading
(eg August 1977) [10].

The World Bank
It is an indispensable tool for controlling the global market. Founded in order to finance projects in "poor" countries (interest rates on loans in 1993 were 7.5%) it is a means by which to take political control of countries and to further the interests of Western companies, privileging those from the USA.
The bank has contributors from around 170 countries; it is controlled by the richest of these (the USA holds 17.5% of the shares with voting rights, Japan 6.65%, France, Germany and the UK 5%; 45 African countries hold only 4% of shares) which are, of course, the countries containing the largest multinational companies; the majority of the projects which are financed are tendered to American companies [14].
The WB and the IMF, before granting loans, require that certain structural adjustments are made – that is, changes which facilitate the entry of foreign capital into countries, the privatisation of public services and heritage and the reduction of "people in charge" – thus having a significant influence on the country's political choices [15].

A compromised environment, the disintegration of land and community

The environment and the community are used as resources, primary material with which to make a profit. Public assets are privatised, bought and sold where previously they were for the free use of all. To this "theft" is added a corresponding discarding of the unwanted (both in environmental and human terms) which has a devastating effect on the overall conditions of the planet, and on human health. Culture becomes subordinate to production and is fictitiously concentrated in the strongest countries.
The thickness of the arctic ice has diminished by 42% since the 1950's; every year the volume of the surface ice in Greenland is reduced by the equivalent of 51 cubic Kilometres [13]. The last time the North Pole was without ice, as happened in July 2000, was 50 million years ago [4].
The temporary heating of certain areas of the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, has caused the death or alteration of 90% of the barrier
reef [4].
The world water deficit has been estimated at 200 billion cubic metres annually (using water without replenishing reservoirs). The major part of the world's groundwater is polluted: between 50 and 60% of the samples taken throughout the world reveal the presence of pollutants in dangerous quantities. Hundreds of millions of people regularly drink strongly polluted water [4]. Every year almost 5 million people die as a result of this [16].
Since 1751 it is calculated that around 271 billion tonnes of carbon have been released into the atmosphere; between 1958 and 1999 the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by 17% [4]. Every year around 3 million people die as a result
of this [16].
Every year virgin forests are reduced by 14 million hectares; between 1997 and 1998, deliberately lit forest fires in the Amazon destroyed 5.2 million hectares of forest, scrub land and savannah; in Indonesia 2 million hectares of forest have gone up in smoke [2]
Around 6 million hectares are subject to desertification every year (and this is almost always due to bad farming practices); almost 5 million hectares every year are lost to the expansion of human settlement. 84% of current research takes place in only 10 countries, and 95% of patents are owned by the USA [16].

For the USA GM food labelling is an illicit trade barrier
The USA are not only opposing precautionary measures on GMOs, but are also using the WTO against labelling of GM foods. They maintain that the label could prejudice consumers against GM foods, thus becoming an unlawful trade barrier under WTO rules.Under pressure from the public, the USA have softened their position, eventually agreeing to the labelling of GM foods, but "only insofar as the new food shows significant changes to its composition". This doesn't take into account the fact that GM foods have by definition undergone genetic modifications, which can certainly be considered "significant alterations to their composition". [7].

The logical sequel to patents
Monsanto has engineered and patented seeds which cannot reproduce. Dubbed "terminator", they are activated by a chemical and ensure that seeds resulting from the harvest are sterile. This obviously forces farmers to buy new seeds from Monsanto each year. Moreover, terminator plants may accidentally pollinate non-genetically modified plants.
In 1996, in the USA, around two million acres were planted with Monsanto's genetically modified cotton, called "Bollgard". The DNA of this variety has been modified with genes from a soil bacteria which produces an enzyme known to be poisonous for one of cotton's main pests. Monsanto makes farmers pay a "technological tax" on top of the price of the seeds, from which they made 51 million dollars in one year. Contrary to Monsanto's claims, the cotton pest is 20-50 times more widespread in GM crops than in traditional ones [7].

It is forbidden for countries to restrict the trade of products made by child or forced labour
For the resolution of controversies the GATT commissions (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the international agreement which preceded the institution of the WTO ruled that goods cannot receive a different commercial treatment according to the way in which they were produced or harvested. The need to distinguish between methods of production is indispensable for the protection of the environment which depends on the possibility of changing the conditions under and processes by which goods are produced or cultivated and harvested.
In accordance with this norm the United States, for example, cannot ban footballs made in Pakistan, although the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has documented them as the fruit of child labour in abusive conditions. Furthermore, the agreement expressly forbids every country of the WTO who has signed to impede government contracts with undertakings which violate human rights, industrial or environmental law.
Goods are judged according to their function: a football is a football, regardless of the conditions under which it was produced [7].

The biopiracy of rice
In 1997 the Texan producer RiceTec obtained a patent for Basmati rice, admitting, in the request for the patent, that Basmati has been cultivated for generations in India and Pakistan. RiceTec limited itself to slightly modifying the traditional Indian rice. The patent provoked strong protests from New Dehli as Basmati is an important export product for India.
According to the TRIP agreement, India must respect the derivative rights of the American company's patent, to the complete detriment of Indian farmers [7].

The human object of the market

Survival has become the objective of human society; the aim is no longer to search for healthy communal conditions but to accept individual solutions within the market. Taken from society and from the environment the individual doesn't live, only survives.
We are used by the market, which basically trades on our needs, our desires and our health.
Rich countries and the rich have access to far more medical care than the poor. Accounting for the demand for medicine, they direct the research and the availability of products. They worry more about the ailments (even those that are in no way serious) of their populations and the longevity and health of their elderly than about the millions who die every year from smallpox or measles.
A few years ago, Del Monte demonstrated how reality can be turned upside down and made to become a commercial by-product, however brutal that may be. Big companies promote the production of single crops in huge areas, convincing the farmers to abandon their traditional systems and crops with financing or assurance of sales. An area becomes dominated by a market which is not managed by the local community but by an external company who, gaining the dependence of the territory, sets the price of the product and thereby conveniently massacres first the local economy and then its society. Del Monte first stabilises prices and then the level of quality of Philippine bananas. When the market is flooded, 50% of the product is deemed bad quality while, when the demand is high, this drops dramatically to only 5% [3]. This oscillation, independent of local conditions and motivated solely by the interests of the company, produces misery and desperation within the population. It is embodied in the publicity slogan "the man from Del Monte said yes", which has acquired a significance beyond the strictly commercial.

Fear of a suit from WTO induces South Korea to lower food safety standards
1995: the USA threatens to denounce South Korea to the WTO for its laws concerning long checking procedures for imported fruit. The warning, in reality, is aimed at China and Japan. The Korean government declares that the problem has been exaggerated, and that the WTO's judgement should be invoked for more important issues and not trifles, considering the costs that the procedure incurs. The costs necessary to confront a suit against the WTO are the cause of grave concern particularly for poorer countries. So when the USA put forward the denouncement South Korea agreed to negotiate, deciding it was more convenient to lower food safety standards than litigate with the USA. In April 1995 the time for controlling fruit was reduced from 25 to 5 days [7].

American threats induce Thailand to abandon its policy on prices for wider access to pharmaceuticals
After seven years of pressure and threats, Thailand finally modified its patent law of 1992. The commission on pharmaceutical controls, which was instituted as an instrument for public health, had lowered the prices for life-saving pharmaceuticals like flucanozole, used to treat a form of meningitis which has hit the population of Thailand at more than five times the rate of AIDS. The commission had authorised three local pharmaceutical companies to produce the drug, bringing the cost of $14.00 per daily dose requested by Pfizer distribution, to $1.00. Other anti-AIDS drugs, used to the same degree, dropped from a cost of $324.00 to just $87.00. Despite the fact that this type of license was well within the lines of TRIP agreements, the USA justified their persistent campaign against the Thai law declaring it didn't conform to the agreement and that the existence of this control commission on pharmaceuticals was incompatible with the WTO [7]. The issue of control over the medicine market, in spite of the positive results seen in the case of AIDS in South Africa, is absolutely not resolved.

Threats to the EU for the regulation of pollution standards
In recent years the European Union proposed to ban electric products which contain lead, mercury, cadmium, chrome solvents and flame retardants by 2004, and to create a law which requires the presence of 5% recycled material in plastic components of electronics; in addition, companies would be required to collect and dispose of discarded electronic parts. The electronics industry (l'AEA) and the USA government mounted an offensive in grand style against this proposal. The AEA accused the EU of violating a certain number of WTO regulations, and added the dumbfounding statement that there is no proof that heavy metals, like lead, represent a threat to human health or the environment.



4. Awaited outcome: the subordination of communities



Climate modifications

The overall temperature of the planet has been increasing as a result of phenomena unleashed by humans (greenhouse effect, heat production etc). The greatest risk is that faced by communities in already environmentally extreme conditions or in situations which are particularly sensitive to increases in temperature (those close to deserts, with scarce resources). The principle cause for concern, however, is the increasing unpredictability of climatic conditions and the violence of their manifestations. There were 20 "natural disasters" in the 1980's, 86 in the 1990's (hurricanes, floods, landslides, events connected to the climate, made up 80% of the total) and in the last 15 years these have caused the deaths of 561,000 people of which only 4% were from industrialized countries [4]. The outcome: damage to agriculture, difficulty maintaining traditional agriculture, the need for investment for reconstruction and for rendering agriculture independent of natural forces (greenhouses, industrialization, etc.). A community which is unable to regulate its interaction with the climate is subordinate.

Lack of water

The global consumption of water continues to increase. "Modern" industrialized agriculture, single crops, indifference to the environment all demand an ever greater quantity of water. As availability decreases and cost increases, the control of resources is fundamental. The powerful privatize public water and control its availability. A community without water is subordinate.

Increases in populations and food

The United Nations predicts a 3 billion person increase in the planet's population (from today's 6-9 billion) in the next 50 years. The area of cultivated land per capita will eventually go down. In countries like Nigeria we will see reductions from 0.15 hectares to 0.07 due solely to the increase in population without considering the effects of temperature increases and water shortage in the vast areas of desert and semi-arid terrain. It will be necessary to increase production in already productive regions not within the borders of the country. In the last twenty years the commercial world of agricultural products (import/export) has more than doubled [2]. Developing countries import basic foods (necessary for survival) and export luxury items (exotic fruit, coffee, cocoa, etc.) which have substituted all other crops and put their producers at the mercy of the global market and its trends (take the case of chocolate for one) and decisions made by importers. A community that cannot produce what it eats is subordinate.

Absence of choice

Notwithstanding the well-known problems of the environment, no consumption and no emissions have diminished in the last ten years. Consumption: combustible fossils: 7.150 million Tep in 1990, 7.647 million Tep in 1999; automobile production: 36 million in 1990, 39 million in 1999; number of circulating automobiles: 445 million in 1990, 520 million in 1999; exportation of pesticides: $9 billion in 1990, $11.4 billion in 1998; etc. [2], [4], [13], [17]. This exponential and continued growth is convenient for producers of goods but absolutely not for the community. A community that has no choice is subordinate.

Economic power replaces political power

Private capital has permeated administrative structures both physically (e.g. the Clinton administration's Treasurer, the director of the World Bank and many other roles have been filled with people already managing multinationals), and strategically (those elected are ever more concerned with business affairs, the satisfactory conclusion of which is an indispensable condition of their existence) [15]. Because of this, no parliamentary alternative will change the conditions and operative sphere of the economy or impact on the choices of the great capitalists.
The reason for concern regarding business magnates who lead and make up the government, rests exactly on the fact that the power they gain gives them greater opportunities to expand their own fortunes, not only in terms of business but trading also in human currency. A community that doesn't manage its own politics is subordinate.


Individuals who are incapable of managing their own existence, communities which are displaced, disinterested in the environment, dependent on external politics and organisations, lack adequate tools, who are part of productive processes and a market in which their opinions carry no weight – this is the scene which is unfolding. A system controlled by a few leaving the majority dependent on a model which takes away their autonomy. Making humankind dependent is the principal means for maintaining their subordination.



5. The way to respond



Power and its double

Most of the information contained in this text has been taken from international bodies controlled by the same market which creates the problems addressed. It is common enough to find in the documents of the UN and of the bodies of which it is comprised (and even more incredible, those of the World Bank , which has contributed in a significant way to world poverty) indications of the necessity to reduce national debts and to preserve the environment and the community. Most people who think intelligently about the problem don't manage to recognize the prime motivations of this model. This is particularly true of American intellectuals despite their having analysed the situation correctly. In this way we become predisposed towards solutions which are defined from inside the existing system, using the characteristics which form the basis of the current model and which obstruct any better solution (by considering the market and its profits as a starting point for regulation rather than forms to be eliminated).

Between extremism and compromise

The system doesn't work and it is easy to be distanced from it. If the distance is too great one risks losing touch, adopting a persecutory attitude towards others, who are (albeit often consciously) victims of the system. It is necessary, therefore, to find a way of opposing which is not extremist but resolute in showing the possibility of different solutions without giving in to compromise.

The trap of violence

To understand the situation, to establish responsibility, to fully comprehend how the suffering of all humanity depends on the interests of only a few, and how these people influence every minimal detail of common everyday life and direct our destinies with complete arrogance, is an unsettling realisation.
The immediate reaction is the desire to balance the books at least once. But accounts cannot be settled with gratuitous and ostentatious behaviour and those who cannot control their temper might as well stay home. Violent outbursts can be liberating, but they are not the result of unanimous and democratic agreement, not motivated, not strategic or specific or unavoidable. This violence is not only useless, but harmful. It is harmful because militarising a movement and focussing attention on violent action reduces the significance of the opposition to acts of occasional heroism. It is harmful because it is so often desired, supported, defended and promoted by governments who have already (and particularly in Italy) recognised the advantages of shifting attention from the true issue to violent conflict.A violent act, if carried out within a public protest, is an authoritarian act in that it is carried out by a minority, not subject to communal discussion, but protected by the participants of the demonstration. It is foolish in that its objectives are not representative but only provocative. And it is dangerous in that, while the perpetrators remain incognito, it could feasibly be committed for reasons quite different from those disclosed. The most violent action is not the most powerful.

The need for intelligence

It is necessary to follow paths which are not predictable. We must avoid accepting confrontation over hopelessly lost ground, and falling into traps. There is a need for clear and decisive behaviour, promoting action that effectively frustrates and limits the abuse of power central to this model. Action which involves both the community and individuals. When Gandhi (in this case in the context of an independence movement) sited the wearing of English clothes as a mechanism for consolidating colonial power, he was not calling for the destruction of company warehouses but reminding people of their ability to make their own clothes as in Indian tradition. This shared, felt action was the beginning of the break up of established power. And English colonialism, in India and throughout the world was certainly no less heavy and invasive than the power of globalisation.

Coherent actions

Social movements are only as effective and coherent as their individual members. The obstinate, the obsessed, those who exploit, the greedy, the gratuitously violent, the dogmatic – these people cannot hope to contribute to the breakdown of a system which is based on exactly these types of behaviour. To really oppose means adopting a way of living, and behaving that does not embrace the principles of the society under criticism. There must be harmony between the means and the end.
The Lakota Indians offer an example of a different way of life. If they had won battles and been able to demonstrate a military efficiency greater than their opponents, they would have been more "yankee" than their conquerers. This doesn't mean that the best side always loses, but that if one's methods are questionable, one's victory is not to be respected.

Reviving a sense of individual proactivism

After years of forming organisations and waiting on great political strategies from within opposition movements we need to revive the desire to be individually proactive, to have the coherence and ability to be effective individually as well.
The system, having destabilised political and administrative organisms (the realm of collective action), seeks to interact with people on a one-to-one basis. It seeks this using the very logic that has successfully weakened left-wing movements, the belief that disorganised individuals can be more easily deceived than those who are organised. But if non-organised individuals are more conscious and aware than their presence within an organisation could possibly expect or foresee, the comparison is to the disadvantage of the system, which would be confronted not by one but by an infinite number of leaders.

Creating networks between individuals

In this context, the incredible limitation of the delegate system is even more evident. Delegates, by their very existence, reduce the importance of individual opinions, consolidating and reiterating down to a common denominator. Passage from the bottom to the head of a government, or the leader of the opposition, has dozens of levels of delegation and therefore of compromise in which minorities have ever less impact on decision-making.
Political parties, movements, leaders careers, positions make up an overbearing scenario from which we must free ourselves, even if still maintaining that hierarchically structured action is largely effective: it may be, but at the cost of distorting objectives and points of departure.
To be individually proactive one must operate a within a community composed of equal relationships, not hierarchical or enforced ones. A way of creating networks from which an organisation may arise, but a "light" organisation in which there is autonomy and individual responsibility and which is upheld by the common denominator of coherence and the critical analysis of situations.

Cut down, slow down, and reflect

An indispensable action is to reduce consumption. The western world has a huge opportunity to be active in this. Reducing our acquisition of goods reduces the demand for goods and the importance of the market, reduces the waste of energy; we should slow down rates of action and movement, seeing that the faster we move, the more we consume. The trap of time is an instrument of the market; we need to reflect on what we do, on every gesture, how it is made and what it means. When acquiring things, we need to be critical about merchandise, boycott products made by dubious methods (ethically, socially, environmentally), redirect the market, purchase products of known brands, small producers, and not multinationals.

Recognise and sustain realities that by their existence impose limits on the system

There are a wide range of actions that, in merely being performed, can limit the spread of the model – for example, producing food and mending products ourselves. Such actions can be carried out by the most different of people but they are intrinsically a challenge (even when unintentional) to the principles which regulate the model. Supporting them is fundamental.

Contribute to rebuilding the community

Participate. Be there, relating to places and their communities, using their technical abilities and putting your own at their disposition. Help make them autonomous or more independent.

Set yourself challenges, go out, talk, feel, invent

Talk about things simply, with clarity, stimulating exactly those people who have already adopted a similar position. Help to end prejudice and change ingrained attitudes. Become proactive, willing elements of the community once again. Your own presence, your own being is a fundamental political element, which will find a way of sustaining alternative hypotheses to the current model as long as these are realised creatively and positively together with others.



References and sources

[1] UNDP (1998), Rapporto 1998 su Lo sviluppo Umano. I consumi Ineguali, Rosemberg & Sellier, Torino
[2] Brown L.R., Flavin C., French H. (2000), State of the World Edizioni Ambiente, Milano
[3] Gesualdi F. (1999), Manuale per un consumo responsabile, Feltrinelli, Milano
[4] Brown L.R., Flavin C., French H. (2001), State of the World, Edizioni Ambiente, Milano
[5] Nanni A. (1997), Economica leggera, EMI, Bologna
[6] Shiva V. (1999), Biopirateria, CUEN, Napoli
[7] Wallach L., Sforza M. (2000), WTO, Feltrinelli, Milano
[8] Gallino L. (2000), Globalizzazione e disuguaglianze, Editori Laterza, Bari
[9] Brecher J., Costello T. (1996), Contro il capitale globale, Feltrinelli, Milano
[10] Istituto del Tercer Mundo (1999), Guida del Mondo 1999/2000, EMI, Bologna
[11] Wackernagel M., Rees W.E. (2000), L’impronta ecologica, Edizioni Ambiente, Milano
[12] Centro nuovo modello di sviluppo (2000), Guida al consumo critico, EMI, Bologna
[13] Brown L.R., Renner M., Halweil (2000), Vital Signs, Edizioni Ambiente, Milano
[14] George S, Sabelli F. (1994), Crediti senza frontiere, Edizioni Gruppo Abele, Torino
[15] Chossudovsky M. (1998), La globalizzazione della povertà, Edizioni Gruppo Abele, Torino
[16] UNDP (1999), Human development Report 1999, Oxford University Press, Oxford
[17] The economist (1999), Il mondo in cifre 1999, Interazionale Editore, Roma
[18] Amoroso B. (1996), Della globalizzazione, Edizioni La Meridiana, Molfetta
[19] Andreff W. (2000), Le multinazionali globali, Asterios Editore, Trieste


Other references

Amnesty International (2000), Diritti umani e ambiente, ECP, Firenze
Bologna G., Gesualdi F., Piazza F., Saroldi A. (2000), Invito alla sobrietà felice, EMI, Bologna
Bové J., Dufour F. (2000), Il mondo non è in vendita, Feltrinelli, Milano
Centro nuovo modello di sviluppo (1996), Boycott!, Macro Edizioni, Forlì
Celli G., Marmiroli N., Verga I. (2000), I semi della discordia, Edizioni Ambiente, Milano
Chomsky N. (1999), Sulla nostra pelle, Marco Tropea Editore, Milano
French H. (2000), Ambiente e globalizzazione, Edizioni Ambiente, Milano
Masullo A. (1998), Il pianeta di tutti, EMI, Bologna
Meloni M. (2000), La battaglia di Seattle, Editrice Berti, Milano
Renner M. (1999), State of the War, Edizioni Ambiente, Milano
Rifkin J. (1998), Il secolo biotech, Baldini & Castoldi, Milano
Robertson R. (1999), Globalizzazione, Asterios Editore Trieste
Spybey T. (1997), Globalizzazione e società mondiale, Asterios Editore, Trieste
Vaccaro S. (a cura) (1999), Il pianeta unico, Elèuthera, Milano