The US Intelligence community has predicted the diffusion of power over the next decade; forecasting that authority and control will be distributed among a more diverse set of entities, with no single state wielding supreme power. If we understand this prediction accurately, what they are talking about are multinational corporations and financial institutions, not states. And if we understand THIS accurately, we are actually talking about a greater concentration of power in fewer and fewer hands (the shareholder class) wielded through strictly totalitarian institutions with no democratic mechanisms whatsoever.
In other words, the future of democracy depends on the democratisation of corporate power. That is the next phase. That is the new revolution.
I am the Chief Strategist for the #WeAreAllRohingyaNow Campaign, an effort by independent activists to recruit private sector influence in support of the legitimate rights of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar, the restoration of their citizenship, and ending the genocidal program being carried out on a daily basis by the Burmese military and Buddhist extremists. This campaign can be a launching pad for the overall strategy of democratizing corporate power, and it is this larger goal that I am primarily interested in; though, of course, the immediate goal is resolution of the horrific situation in Arakan.
Obviously, there are a lot of elements to the development of this strategy in terms of tactics, on a grassroots level with consumers, students, and potentially workers, as well as with corporations, business leaders, and shareholders. We are going to need to coordinate on many levels. Redirecting political activism towards the private sector requires a whole new set of skills, re-education, and understanding market dynamics.
We envision being able to create a scenario where companies recognise the need to reorganize their relationships with customers; the need to present themselves as representatives of their consumer constituencies on issues that matter to them. We need to create a scenario in which corporations actually acknowledge their political power, and agree to subordinate that power (to one degree or another) to the popular will because if they don’t, they will lose market share. Political agendas and moral stances on social issues need to become part of the equation of doing business.
Obviously, in order to create this scenario, we are initially going to need to educate and mobilize grassroots consumers to build an actual impact on their consumer habits, which we can then use to demonstrate to corporations the need to be responsive. As I have stated many times in the past, corporations are not moral entities, they do not speak the language of “justice and injustice”; they understand all matters in terms of profit and loss. This is not a drastically different dynamic than what we have traditionally dealt with when lobbying politicians. Politicians are also not moral actors; they understand electoral support. Where a politician fears losing votes, companies fear losing sales. It is simply a matter of readjusting our sources of leverage. Indeed, we have far more leverage with companies than we do with governments; we just have to learn how to use it.
Any social or political movement today, whether it is focused on the Rohingya issue or any other, must be able to position itself as an instrument for either delivering to companies the brand loyalty of consumers, or for depriving them of brand loyalty, on the basis of what political stance they adopt on any given issue.
The transfer of power and authority from the public to the private sector has opened a new chapter in the history of anti-democratic measures, and our generation is tasked with ensuring that democracy will not be subverted simply because the dominant powers today are no longer states, but corporations. The private sector is the new front in the democratic revolution.