We are living in dark times, but the fightback has begun, an activists' conference hears
Campaigners working from the grassroots up not only have the power to change the world – they have an absolute duty to for the sake of the planet’s future.
Corporate power has grown to such an extent that disparities in wealth and power have reached grotesque levels.
As was revealed recently by Oxfam, wealth is being shared by fewer people than ever before with just eight people controlling the same amount of cash as half the world’s population.
Meanwhile, governments have been captured by corporate power, communities trashed and democracy subverted.
The power of big business and the fight to take back control was the theme of a major conference held in Glasgow recently by campaigning NGO Global Justice Now and activists from the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC).
It heard that communities and ecosystems across the globe are being wrecked by an out of control corporate sector.
The fightback must start now – and the stakes couldn’t be higher, activists were warned.
Decades of dogma asserting the primacy of the market has hollowed out communities, filling the swamp which has incubated a new far right movement, which is currently finding its highest expression in the rise of Donald Trump to power in the US.
Meanwhile, the ability of the planet to sustain itself has been called into question by slash and burn economics.
We are engaged in a battle - it’s democracy versus corporate interests
Global Justice Now director Nick Dearden said: “The vast power of big business is the biggest threat to public services, livelihoods and democracy.
“It stands at the heart of global inequality. We have unprecedented inequality in the world, where eight men have the same amount of wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population - that’s three and a half billion people.
“The power of big business is at the heart of why we are tearing up our planet’s ability to sustain itself.
“This is all the fault of global corporations which have twisted our governments and society to meet their needs not ours.”
However, although the clock is ticking, Dearden said a fightback is underway: “Although we’re living through difficult times we need to think seriously about how we build better campaigns, better united fronts which combat this racism and hatred. 40 years of dogma which told us the market knows best has hollowed out our communities and our society and has created alienation, isolation and hatred.
“There are real alternatives: real and deep democracy that gives people control over their lives so that they can participate meaningfully in what their community looks like. We can see glimpses of this all around the world today – the food sovereignty movements which sees millions of small farmers around the world taking control of farms from global agri-business so they can run food production for human need not greed.
“Then there’s energy democracy – people taking control of energy resources from transnationals. On this, Scotland has just opened a consultation on setting up a public energy company. Then there’s fight for better trade deals in Latin America.
“These are the seeds of real democracy in our society.”
Dearden said activists in Scotland can stake a claim to a place in the global fightback by following traditions stretching back to the radical reformers of the 1820s, through Red Clydeside, the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders and the poll tax campaign.
He said: “We stand in their tradition. If they can fight and win, so can we.”
A radical vision for Scotland’s future must be at the heart of any vision of the country if, as expected, we move towards another independence referendum.
RIC’s Myshele Haywood said: “I’ve been filed with despair at the past few weeks – angry, scared and confused, watching the hard won victories of the past hundred years be swept aside by the whims of politicians without a mandate, without a conscience, without a plan. People and ecosystems are suffering now but there’s more to come.
“They want to grind us down till we’re too tired to resist – it’s siege warfare but it’s not going to work. Their strategy is divide and rule but we will not be divided. We can agree that corporate elites are a common enemy. All of our struggles are connected.
“The way we win the next referendum is by opposing corporate power. Things are changing fast and now is not the time to turn away and crumble into despair.
“Get involved in whatever way you can but the most important resource we have is each other. We disagree on some things but we agree on the fundamentally important things – we can worry about the rest later. For now, we’ve got fascists to fight.”
Larry Sanders, the brother of Democratic senator Bernie Sanders, who came close to running against Donald Trump in the US election on a democratic socialist platform, also addressed delegates.
Sanders, health spokesperson for the Green Party in England and Wales, spoke of how the seeds of the Trump movement were grown in ground prepared by the shocks communities felt as a result of globalisation.
However, he added: “We can do what we need to do we can debate it, we will be wrong from time to time, but we are engaged in a battle which is very important. It’s democracy versus corporate interests. Democracy is us working together for a common good.”
The power of ordinary campaigners to effect change will be the focus of an event at SCVO’s Gathering at 4pm on Wednesday, 22 February in Glasgow’s SECC.
Among the speakers will be Margaret Aspinall of the Hillsborough Family Campaign and Liam Stevenson of Time for Inclusive Education.