Corporate influence, with its fatal blend of power, money and unaccountability, is particularly potent and dangerous in frail states. Corporations are insufficiently regulated, and where the purchasing power of a large company can outbid or overwhelm an underfunded government.
The lobbying power of the largest corporations can even make and break governments: The Anglo-Persia Oil Company (now known as British Petroleum) was able to induce a coup that toppled the government in Iran in 1953; United Fruit Company which owned 42 percent of Guatemala’s land, lobbied to bring about a C.I.A.-backed coup a year later in 1954. The International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation campaigned for the ouster of Chile’s Salvador Allende in the 1970s, while more recently Exxon Mobil has lobbied the United States to protect its interests in Indonesia and Iraq.
The roots of this predatory corporate culture go back 400 years to the foundation and the global rise of the East India Company. Many modern corporations have attempted to match its success at bending state power to their own ends, but the Company remains unmatched for its violence and sheer military might.
Using the looted wealth of Mughal Bengal, the Company started ferrying opium east to China, then fought the Opium Wars to seize an offshore base at Hong Kong and safeguard its profitable monopoly in narcotics. To the west, it shipped Chinese tea to Massachusetts.
The Company had become, as one of its directors said, “an empire within an empire,” with the power to make war or peace anywhere in the East. It had also by this stage created a vast and sophisticated administration and Civil Service, built much of London docklands and came close to generating a quarter of Britain’s trade. Its annual spending within Britain alone equaled about a quarter of total British government annual expenditure. Its armies were larger than those of almost all nation- states and its power now encircled the globe.
Although it has no exact equivalents, the Company was the ultimate prototype for many of today’s corporations. Today we can blame MNCs for the evils of the world. But there are some who resort to nothing short of murder and mass genocide for profit. These are the latter day “saints”:
1. Monsanto / Bayer
Round-up is a flagship of Monsanto. Its weed killer kills humans as well. Bayer bought the U.S. firm for USD63 billion in 2018. On Wednesday 24 June 2020, Bayer announced it will pay more than USD10 billion to Americans who say their cancer was caused by Roundup. That sure is a “Rounddown”.
Roundup is a flagship Monsanto product containing glyphosate. (AP pic)
2. Big Pharma
High concentrations of drugs have been dumped into water supply systems (e.g. India and U.S.). U.S. pharmaceutical companies with factories have been known to dump 100 lbs of ciprofloxacin into a stream per day.
3. Rio Tinto (“RT”)
RT operates mostly out of Africa. They have the worst track record for human rights. It has its “own private mercenary army” to keep blacks from rising up against them and the government. They have been known to act forcibly against activists opposing their gold mines in Indonesia.
There are many more and we need to be vigilant of MNCs that operate with scant regard for human life or environment. Many multi-lateral agreements have their stamp of approval, and weak or poor governments are “bullied” into submission. That’s western imperialism translated into corporate capitalism.
1. The Original Evil Corporation, William Dalrymple, The New York Times, Sept 4, 2019
2. 10 Evil Corporations You Buy From Everyday, Andrew Handley, Feb 21, 2013 (www.listverse.com)
3. Bayer Agrees USD$10 Bil Settlement Over Weedkiller Cancer Cases, by AFP, 25 June 2020 (www.freemalaysiatoday.com)