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House Legislation

Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney
Video Speech before the Oxford Union

Are Multinationals the New Imperialists?

I would like to thank Mr. Richard Silcock, for giving me an opportunity to have my voice heard at such an important event. It is truly an honor for me to have been included.

Thank you.

You have given me much to think about.

"Are Multinationals the New Imperialists?"

In short, the answer is yes, and the evidence is clear. However, we should know that government has always been the handmaiden of corporate imperialism.

I know that the United States has become the ultimate imperialist wanting to even colonize the European colonizers!

My European friends get upset with me when I say that, but look at what's happening now with Echelon. Echelon is the US global surveillance network monitoring every phone call, e-mail, fax, or any other communication. The European Union has protested the use of Echelon intelligence capability in corporate espionage. An example is the use of Echelon to defeat an Airbus bid to supply jumbo jets to Saudi Arabia in favor of a Boeing tender. Boeing won the multibillion dollar contract thanks to stolen information supplied by Echelon.

It used to be that the American security apparatus was utilized, with the Europeans, against the world of color. Now, they're using it against you.

American corporations are swallowing your corporations and the French are fighting, trying to stave off McDonald-ization of their culture.

Over here we call it Coca Col-onization. And Europe is the next big frontier. You're rich over there and you have every right to crave the best of what Americans can dream up. But understand that globalization is far more than what hamburger you eat or in what language a sign appears.

Your lifestyles will be profoundly affected. Your system of government could come under threat. Your currencies and stock markets will be threatened. Your ability to even select what food you eat. Everything. Your life as you know it may never be the same again.

Much of what America produces in the manufacturing world is increasingly being done in the worst authoritarian and dictatorial regimes in the world. Just imagine that America is a little pac man eating up all the yellow balls: some of them are gold, others diamonds, the red balls with the biggest points represent oil. And the pac man playing field is the planet. This little pac man called America won't be satisfied until every one of those little balls is eaten up. Now, it really doesn't matter who's at the control of this game, because the prime directive is to acquire possessions and consume.

But this has to be done in a way that doesn't offend national sensibilities. So, it's McDonald's today and American football tomorrow. And oh, how about a Coke?

This pac man needs a lot of energy in order to conquer the world.

In order to acquire all the world's resources.

So, down in the bowels of the body of the pac man game are all the indigenous and colored peoples of the world. Take their land. Work their children. Contaminate their environment. Murder their leadership. Nothing else really matters.

Need examples? Look at Occidental trying to take the land of the U'wa people in Colombia. Look at Nike in Vietnam. Or just look at Unocal in Burma (+, ++). And let us not forget Ken-Saro Wiwa of Nigeria.

All done in the name of good business. I call it imperialism. I call it criminal.

So, that's why it was so important to get China into the WTO. No potential rival can be left out of this web. That's why we fought and won the Cold War.

No area on the planet can escape the clutch of "globalization."

After all, we'll either need their consumers, their resources, or their workers.

And that's why it's so important to get China ensnared. No sense winning the Cold War to lose the globalization war!

And so, what does this globalization mean to us? Or the Chinese?

Well, let me tell you about life at the Kathi Lee Gifford Handbag factory in China. The workers are at the Qin Shi factory and work up to 115 hours per week, or 16 1/2 hours a day, seven days a week. But they were paid for only 14 hours a day, and 98 hours a week. Working seven days a week and 30 days a month, the workers would receive one day off every other month. All overtime work is mandatory, and the workers receive no overtime pay.

The average wage is 3 cents an hour!? But the lowest wage was 1/10 of a cent an hour! The Kathie Lee handbag the workers make at the Qin Shi Factory retails at Wal-Mart for $8.76, which by American standards is quite cheap.

However from the perspective of the average worker in the factory, earning just 3 cents an hour, the Kathie Lee handbag is very expensive indeed. At 3 cents an hour, he would have to work 299 hours to purchase such a handbag.

46% of the workers at Qin Shi earn nothing at all, and in fact end up owing the company money. Their wages aren't even enough to cover their pay plus their room and board. And, we're not talking Holiday Inn. Typical Chinese factory dormitories are drab concrete buildings seven or eight stories high. With heavy iron grates or bars covering the windows, the dorms resemble prisons. A 10-by-20-foot room easily houses 9 to 12 people.

So that's what globalization means to the Chinese workers. And to us, it means cheap pocketbooks, cheap rugs, cheap everything that makes life sweet, and no matter where we go, from Beijing to Brussels, we can find Starbucks Coffee, McDonald's hamburgers, Pizza Hut pizza, Nike shoes.

And now, thanks to taxpayer subsidies, high tech intelligence, a ready military, an army of ambassadors to diplomatically hawk US goods all over the world, and no effective campaign finance reform, US multinational corporations are definitely the tail wagging the dog. Or to keep to our analogy, the body at the control of the pac man game.

So, the only real winners in this game are the corporate stockholders and the CEOs.

Now, the Europeans have taken a very important, albeit modest, first step toward reining in European corporations. But what you see of the American sort has no conscience.

It is time to change the rules of the game.

Thank goodness, people all over the world are beginning to wake up.

Protestors are taking it to the streets in Seattle, Washington, DC, Davos, Prague, Sydney, and Montreal.

They understand that this policy of rape and pillage of the world's resources is unsustainable and is morally wrong.

The struggle against Multinationals is more than a fight for equal rights, it is a revolution.

And the people must take the power back. That is why I have introduced the Corporate Code of Conduct.

This legislation will demand that corporations follow strict guidelines in terms of environmental protection, human rights, and labor rights.

No longer will they be able to run their corporate waste into the very same streams used by the poorest people on the planet for bathing and washing and drinking. Freeport McMaran does this in Irian Jaye where they pour cyanide down the mountainside in order to extract the gold. However, they don't care that the cyanide then rushes into the river where the people feed and wash and drink.

No longer will they be able to use oppressive security forces to suppress indigenous peoples. This was done by Chevron in Nigeria last year when Chevron allowed Nigerian troops to board Chevron helicopters and gunboats to machine gun innocent Nigerians who dared to protest the environmental damage being inflicted on their land.

And no longer will they be able to line young girls up in the morning in Nicaragua and force them to take a birth control pill each day to keep them from getting pregnant. This is standard practice by too many subcontractors of American corporations.

If it was a war crime in World War II for IG Farben, Mecedes Benz, and other corporations to buy, sell, misuse, and enslave peoples of Europe, then why aren't the actions of Freeport McMaran, Chevron, Kathi Lee Gifford, and Nike war crimes too?

And finally, let me say a few words about the so-called Global Compact between The United Nations and multinational corporations. That relationship is as ugly as was the relationship of IG Farben and other corporations with Nazi Germany. It's abhorrent. And it sets a dangerous precedent. Since the United Nations has even become coopted, who out there will represent the world's people?

We have no choice but to push for a global economy that works for the millions of people who make it work -- the workers. We need global justice or else "Workers of the World Unite!" will become more than just a hackneyed slogan; it'll become the only way to survive.

Thank you to the Oxford Union, and good luck.

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