By Paco Puche
“The curse on the Earth is a mass of capital in the hands of a tiny minority of investors and" developers ", who scrutinize every last square meter on which they could pounce for profit. The image of the locust swarm is not misguided, "says Riechmann. He urgently needs, in addition to his plan A (to continue with business as he usually does: business as usual), a plan B (the conquest of the soul of the people and of social resistance).
Capital tries to appropriate reasonable environmental movements, to reconvert them into domesticated green capitalisms or forms of business with the depletion of the planet - Pedro A. Prieto, ASPO
Economic pressure pushes NGOs towards a “toxic partnership” with large companies, a lobby in the opposite direction - Miguel Romero Baeza, 2009
The idea of “lobby” in its current meaning, which is usually pejorative, refers to forms of pressure from large companies on public institutions, for their benefit.
To give us an idea of its order of magnitude, in 2002 there were more than 10,000 professional lobbyists in Brussels roaming the halls of the Commission, the Council and the European Parliament and, likewise, the more than 200 multinationals with offices in this capital had of no less than 500 industrial lobbyists (1).
Is that big capital does not trust much of the self-regulation of the market and less of the providential "invisible hand". It has powerful reasons: its business activity is an island that operates in an ocean of negative externalities, which it has to keep out of its costs if it wants to fulfill its sole purpose, which is to obtain maximum profits. And it contains an implicit propensity for exponential growth, which already collides with a “full” world in terms of its carrying capacity, since it has reached all its limits in terms of its resources and its sinks. That is why the metaphor that Riechmann uses to describe it is more than pertinent, it goes like this: “The curse for the Earth is a mass of capital in the hands of a meager minority of investors and" developers ", who scrutinize every last square meter on the they could pounce for profit. The image of the swarm of locusts is not unreasonable "(2)
In the same vein, capitalism is seeing how successive crises (financial, economic, energy, ecological, climatic and social) are announcing its next bankruptcy with more intensity (3).
He urgently needs, in addition to his plan A (to continue with business as he usually does: business as usual), a plan B (the conquest of the soul of the people and of social resistance (4)). Well, it is not as powerful as it appears at first glance, because if it were, there would be no need to invest so many millions of dollars in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), green washing, lobbying, advertising and clientelism through NGOs loyal to their interests (5 ).
Big capital's plan B
It can be summarized by saying that it is “the sum of maneuvers aimed at gaining consensus, legalizing these forms of enrichment, achieving obedience and / or complicity, advertising their objectives as if they were identical to those of society, and discrediting the alternatives as if they were ´attacks. ´ ”(6). In a word, seek legitimacy.
Two ways of implementing this second plan stand out for their special relevance: one, the so-called “Corporate Social Responsibility” and, another, the one that aims at the co-optation of social movements of resistance and alternative NGOs. “Without a doubt that these business B plans, paid for by technicians, intellectuals and certain NGOs (some for salaries and others only for vocation) are the greatest challenge to be overcome by the civil resistance, given that 'at night all cats they are brown '”(7)
A few notes on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
The best definition of what this CSR intends was given by Ban Ki-Moon, in 2008 (8). He said: "We have to move from business responsibility to responsibility business." For companies, in the capitalist order, it is about that and only that. If someone wants to call on socializing or sustainability illusions, the statements of the Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Mapfre (9) are more than persuasive: “deep down, a good part of what is heard in CSR is rooted in that cosmetic purpose that it always accompanies us in the company ", and it is that no matter how many turns it is given, in a capitalist system" the only social responsibility of companies is to increase their profits ", as the guru of neoliberal economics Milton Friedman argued.
They cannot avoid it, “if a large publicly traded company fails to comply with the formula of rapid growth and short-term profits, its directors will be exposed to direct dismissal, or even possible legal action (…) or neither bankers nor investors judge business performance by the degree of contribution to the public good. These are fundamentally amoral ”(10)
For this reason, for business responsibility to become more business, the "ethical requirements" must come from the companies themselves, must be voluntary and must be supervised by "friendly" entities. This is the case. The truly existing global architecture of CSR is characterized by its unilateral, voluntary and non-binding nature; It is managed without legislation or public supervision, that is, privately, and its effectiveness is measured with ad hoc stock market indices (11). There is, then, no illusions, CSR is a requirement for large companies to gain social legitimacy that tends to be on the ground. That is why it is common that “many companies that have been harshly criticized in the past now have CSR programs precisely in the areas where they had problems: (for example) Shell has a Responsible Energy program (…), McDonald's is developing campaigns to raise awareness about healthy eating and companies such as Adidas and Inditex have managed to be included among the most sustainable companies in the world in 2008 ”(12).
The case of Inditex is illustrative. Apart from the always disturbing question posed by the authors of the book Amancio Ortega, from zero to Zara, whether "can an entrepreneur, no matter how talented he may have, earn hundreds of millions in a lawful way for forty years?", And the complaints that appear in newspapers (13,14), or in social movements (15), the company's position in terms of CSR is very high. It is the following issue: in the first business ranking that evaluates the efforts of 28 large companies in relation to the climate in Spain, published in 2008, carried out by the Ecology and Development Foundation and financed by MIMARM, the Inditex company appears as a of the best valued. It turns out that the Director of the evaluating Foundation is also a member of the Advisory Board of the aforementioned Inditex (and, take note, partner-leader of AVINA)
To conclude with CSR and “do not fall into morals, let us admit that the logical and common objective of every business is profit… companies are companies and not NGOs; and this is about making money ”. This was said in 2008 by the Director of Reputation and Corporate Identity of Telefónica, a company that has taken very little to put this logic into operation with the recent announcement of massive layoffs (6,000 workers) as well as a substantial increase in the salaries of its managers (in more than 450 million euros), days after having declared the highest profits in its history.
For the social movements of resistance
Two very active foundations in this chapter serve to illustrate how big capital operates in this section of its Plan B. These are the so-called AVINA and Ashoka, which have their preferred operating space in Spain and Latin America. They are not the only ones.
These two foundations, which appeared in 1994 and 1981 respectively, are closely related to each other. “In 1993, Stephan Schmidheiny, founder of AVINA, and Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka, perceived that they had very similar visions on how to contribute to a profound change in the world (and) over the years, AVINA and Ashoka have identified and promoted multiple forms of local and global collaboration ”, as stated on the AVINA website. Also, Ashoka is funded by AVINA. Until 2007, it has paid more than 400 social entrepreneurs.
And these two foundations are unequivocally linked to big capital. In the case of AVINA, the sole founder is the asbestos magnate, the aforementioned Stephan Schmidheiny, one of the largest fortunes in the world amassed with the murderous mineral business, at the cost of the health and lives of hundreds of thousands of people in all the planet. He has been a director of Nestlé, the Union of Swiss Banks, ABS Brown, etc. and founder of the WBCSD, the business lobby of multinationals that wear green clothes, including the most polluting in the world (Schell, DuPont, BP, etc.)
The current president of AVINA comes from the multinational chemical DuPont.
In the case of Ashoka, the foundation in Spain is chaired by a former bank manager JP Morgan, the most powerful company in the world according to the Forbes list, and other founders have been linked either to the consulting firm McKinsey & Co or to General Electric. Silvia Rivero (16) says of the aforementioned consultancy that: "On April 7, 2011, Greenpeace International published the Bad influence report denouncing how the international consultancy McKinsey - which has a long history of advising privatizations and now advises countries that want to get money from REDD–, had made a false base of calculations for the governments of Guyana and Congo, to show a prospect of future deforestation much greater than the real one ”.
These foundations of big capital, enter the social movements and NGOs with a defined philosophy that does not fool anyone. They say: it is about considering "markets as legitimate channels for social change" (17). That is why AVINA defines itself as “a foundation that partners with leaders of civil society and business in Latin America in their initiatives for sustainable development” (18); and Ashoka confirms that "it connects social entrepreneurs and businessmen to build an ecosystem of initiatives that respond to growing social demands" (María Calvo, director of Asoka in Spain).
For that, they finance and ally themselves with social movements, even the so-called anti-capitalist ones, so that they legitimize the really existing business system from within. As Michel Chossudvsky says “the complex network of NGOs –including segments of alternative media- are used by corporate elites to shape and manipulate the protest movement (…) the purpose is not to repress dissent, but, on the contrary, to shape and shape the resistance movement, to establish the limits of dissent ”(19)
Of course, in Latin America, a privileged place for their performances, they have already caught their pulse.
Without going any further, at the last meeting in Cancun on climate change, the prestigious Argentine Rural Reflection Group (GRR) has detected AVINA's infiltration in the different alternative movements that have attended the counter-summit and denounced that: “Large Corporations and the foundations that accompany them have been working stealthily to slip into alternative spaces. " And, of course, AVINA makes an appearance. They continue saying: “The AVINA Foundation, of the Swiss millionaire Stephan Schmidheiny, with a long and sinister trajectory in our Mestizo America, for buying wills behind projects supposedly beneficial to our peoples and communities, offered a financial gift for the organization of Klimaforum 10. The The presence of the Rural Reflection Group in Cancun served to alert about this Foundation and thus unmask its attempts to co-opt these spaces, since then the Klimaforum decided to reject the funds that Avina was trying to contribute ”. And they conclude by saying: "Foundations such as AVINA and Ashoka are the enemy of the Mother Earth and the oppressed populations."
Indeed, AVINA has among its prominent partners Gustavo Grobocopatel, considered the number one businessman and an undisputed reference worldwide in the field of soy. Known as the "king of transgenic soy", Grobocopatel cultivates more than 280,000 hectares, of which some 120,000 are in Argentina and the rest in Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay.
The cultivation of soybeans "is the monoculture of the decade, the crop that deforests more land, that more forests cut down, that produces more murders and slavery, that causes more fumigations, and finally that generates more poverty", according to the Worldwatch Report Institute 2011 (20)
These antecedents of the magnates of the foundations and their alliances, has led the most important federal environmental group in Argentina, the RENACE, to express itself forcefully, in 2008, as follows:
"This brief introduction is intended to warn that just as we characterize the reason for unions, confluences and efforts, we also define and point out the real enemy, the genocide who pollutes, destroys and plunders.
Consequently, the undersigned go to the rest of the comrades of the National Ecological Action Network (RENACE) to ratify that the postulates of our confluence are tainted by those who coexist, frequent and participate in organizations that raise principles radically opposed to the ours. Such is the case of the organizations associated with the financial transnational AVINA, whom we ask to definitively leave the ranks of RENACE.
At this level, we cannot and do not wish to live with members of NGOs linked to the bloody funds of corruption ”(21).
It must be remembered that AVINA is the work of Schmidheiny, a magnate enriched by asbestos (uralite in Spain), one of the deadliest industries of all that have existed in the history of mankind. They are absolutely right.
The case of AGRA and transgenics
With this example, the operating mode of the capitalist lobby in social movements can best be seen.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, “like Monsanto, is also dedicated to trying to destroy peasant agriculture all over the planet, mainly through the so-called Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). This works as a Trojan horse to strip poor African peasants of their traditional seeds, replacing them with seeds from the companies first, and finally with transgenics ”, as denounced by the prestigious Mexican researcher Silvia Ribero, from the ETC group (22)
In case there were doubts about the intentions of this Foundation, La Via Campesina, the most prestigious alternative movement in the world, warned that “since 2006 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has collaborated with the Rockefeller Foundation, an enthusiastic promoter of transgenic crops for the poor of the world, to implement the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which is opening up the continent to GM seed and chemicals sold by Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta.
The Foundation has given AGRA $ 456 million, and in 2006 hired Robert Horsch, who was a Monsanto executive for 25 years, to work on the project. In Kenya about 70% of those who receive AGRA funds work directly with Monsanto, almost 80% of Gates' funding in the country involves biotechnology, and over $ 100 million in donations have been given to Kenyan organizations connected to Monsanto. In 2008 30% of the Foundation's funds for agricultural development went to promote transgenic seed varieties. (…) In August 2010, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation trust announced that it had bought 500 thousand shares of Monsanto, valued at a little more than $ 23 million ”(23)
One of Ashoka's last “signings” comes from Kenya in 2009. It is the Kenyan scientist Florence Wanbugu, linked to biotechnology and Monsanto, and with very good relations in Spain, as can be seen in the photograph at beginning of this article.
The circle continues with the announcement that Ashoka receives in 2009 a donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation of 11.3 million dollars “With these funds they will allow Ashoka to choose more than 90 Social Entrepreneurs who will spread promising innovations to help out from poverty to small farmers and rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa and India "
The circle closes with the “hidden lobby”: the co-opted “dissidents”.
AVINA And Ashoka, in the ten years that they have been operating in Spain, it has managed to somehow enter more than ten organizations that can be considered alternatives. In some cases co-opting leaders or entrepreneurs, in others providing financing and advice. They are prestigious entities that cover the areas of water, the environment, peace, the rural world, parallel universities, ethical financial systems, seeds, the sea, etc. and counting on known leaders. This phenomenon has prospered so much in our country that, elsewhere, I have described this intrusion, which "has been taking place almost without realizing it" (see note 4), as the metaphor of Gruyère's cheese.
These large capital foundations carry out the selection of their collaborators rigorously, so that the final decision usually comes from Costa Rica or the US. They know well who they ally with, not in vain Ashoka boasts that it has as strategic allies the aforementioned Mc Kinsey, the world's leading management consulting company, Hill & Knowlton, one of the main in public relations and Latham and Watkins, with 2000 lawyers around the world. The selection is assured. Just in case, they sign contracts that oblige the co-opted to leave their image to promote philanthropies, and strengthen lifetime ties with them.
Some of these organizations or their leaders, who share the status of partners or allies of the mentioned foundations, have an explicit leadership position against transgenic crops. Therefore, sometimes they fulfill their role as spokespersons for associations that fight against this type of crop (especially in Spain, which is where the cultivation of genetically modified organisms has prospered most in all of Europe), and other times they are forced to maintain a Prudent silence, at least, in the face of such aggressive programs as AGRA, in which 90 of his fellow Ashoka members are trying to implement transgenics in Africa, in support of the Bill and Melinda Gates-Monsanto Foundation, as we have seen above. The added legitimacy that the controlled “dissidents” offer to the foundations of big capital is priceless. Ethically it is a typical case of double standards, so reviled by citizens in the case of professional politicians.
They do the hidden lobby functions
Ángel Zapata writes: “the most frequent strategy among collaborationist intellectuals today consists of a defense mechanism that Zizek has called attenuation. This is not situated on the plane of moral lability. Its own dimension is even deeper, because with it (…) it is the subject himself who is dissociated, in reality it is entire areas of perception and sensitivity that end up being kidnapped, devastated, by this very contemporary form of servant consciousness ”( 24)
For all these reasons, the resolution of the environmental movement RENACE, which coordinates many Argentine environmental groups, could not be more pertinent to our case: “… we also define and point out the real enemy, the genocide that pollutes, destroys and plunders. Consequently, the postulates of our confluence are tainted by those who coexist, frequent and participate in organizations that raise principles radically opposed to ours. Such is the case of the organizations associated with the financial transnational AVINA, whom we ask to definitively leave the ranks of RENACE. At this level, we cannot and do not want to live with members of NGOs linked to the bloody funds of corruption ”(25).
And let's not forget that AVINA will not be able to get rid of the deadly asbestos dust, with which it has amassed its fortune and for whose crimes it has barely paid for them. On behalf of the thousands of asbestos victims, who cry out all over the world, it is morally demanded that the salaries, scholarships and other emoluments received by the leading partners and conscientious entrepreneurs be returned, as reparation, to the aforementioned victims. ("I wonder how the Schmidheiny family lives knowing that so many people have died from asbestos," said Rita Feldmann, a relative of a Swiss victim).
Taking the words of Miguel Romero Baeza (26) to close, I maintain with him that “it is risky and difficult to resist market pressures and very few NGOs do it. (That is why) I have written this article thinking that it will be useful for them to continue resisting ”.
Paco puche, Bookseller and ecologist. Spain. May 2011
(1) Balanyá, B. and others (2002), Europa S.A. The influence of multinationals in the construction of the EU, Icaria, pp. 23-24
(2) Álvarez, S., Carpintero, O. (eds) (2009), Ecological economics: reflections and perspectives, CIP Ecosocial, p.205
(3) Fernández Durán, R. (2011), The bankruptcy of global capitalism: 2000-2030. Preparing for the collapse of Industrial Civilization, Editorial Virus
(4) "All life is being affected by the logic of capital ... the conquest of the soul has been taking place almost without resistance and without realizing it", in Ramón Fernández Durán (2010), The Third Skin, Society of the Image and conquest of the soul, Virus Editorial
(5) Dimitriu, A (2008), "Energy bulimia, agrofuels and territory: the privatization of politics and the politics of silence", in Theomai Magazine, nº 18, 2nd semester, p.93
(6) Galafassi, G. Dimitriu, A. (2007), “The“ B ”Plan of mining capitals”, in Theomai Magazine, nº15, first semester, p.1
(7) Ibid, p.8
(8) Speech by the UN Secretary General at the Private Sector Forum for the UN Millennium Development Goals, N. York, 09/28/2008
(9) At the El Nuevo Monday-Mafre conference, Madrid, June 16, 2008
(10) Mander, J. (editor), (2008), Manifesto on global economic transitions. Closing the tap for the future, Ediciones del Genal, p.27
(11) In Hernández, J. and Ramiro P. (eds.) (2009), The business of responsibility, Icaria, p.62
(12) Ibid., P. 66
(13) 5 Days, June 25, 2008
(14) OMAL, Observatory of Spanish Multinationals in Latin America, Bulletin No. 12, 2006
(15) Greenpeace, “You criticize the concept and effectiveness of CSR, website consulted on 12/14/2009, criticizes Inditex and other companies for their presence in tax havens and their lack of transparency
(16) Rivero, S. (2011) La Jornada de México, April 25, 2011
(17) Global Compat and others (2005), “The NGOs of the XXI century. In the market for change "
(18) AVINA, "Annual Report 2000. Message from the President"
(19) Chossudovsky, M. (2010), “Globalists and elites control popular movements”, in http://www.forumdesalternatives.org/…
(20) Fernández, F. and Duch, G. (2011), in 2011. The situation in the world. Innovations to feed the planet, Icaria, p.350
(21) RENACE, Magazine "El Colectivo", 8.08.2008. Sign, Javier Rodríguez Pardo (Chubut-MACH Antinuclear Movement), Jorge Eduardo Rulli (Reconciling with the Earth / GRR), Carlos A. Manessi (CEPRONAT), Daniel Verzeñassi (Paraná Ecological Forum), Carlos Vicente (Action for Biodiversity ), Myrian Genisans (Pro Eco Tucumán), Silvana Buján (Bios Argentina)
(22) Ribero, S. (2010), "War machines: Blackwater, Monsanto and Bill Gates", La Jornada, 10.10.10
(23) Via Campesina (2010) “The really existing" philanthropy ". Denunciation of the purchase of Monsanto shares by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ”, press release, Rebelión, 09/16/10
(24) Zapata, A. (2007) "Ideas about literature", in Riechmann, J. (2009), Pascal's room, The books of the Waterfall, p. 36
(25) RENACE, Magazine “El Colectivo”, or. c.
(26) Hernández, J. (eds.) (2009) o.c., p.211
Landscape photography: From left to right: Florence (Ashoka), Garmendia (Minister of Innovation), F. González (ex-president and director of Slim and Endesa), not recognized, and Federico Mayor (President of the Triptolemos foundation, associated with Nestlé already multinational food companies). They are almost certainly all advocates of GMOs. (Conference ‘Science against poverty’ at La Granja de Segovia, 08, 04, 2010)