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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Need examples? Look at Occidental trying to take
the land of the
U'wa people in Colombia. Look at
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
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
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
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
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
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.