Effectively Boycotting

The US, abetted by the UK, Australia and a so-called coalition of the willing, violated the UN Charter and launched what Nürnberg Law described as the “supreme international crime”: an unprovoked aggression. Iraq had no weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) and the rapid collapse of the Iraqi military adduces that Iraq was no “imminent” threat to any superpower.

UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter had been saying that Iraq was “fundamentally disarmed” since 1998. One wasn’t likely to find this out from the corporate media that acted as an organ of western governments.

Well if it wasn’t WMD then, what was the invasion and occupation of Iraq about? The old rule of follow the money comes into play. Iraq is home to large reserves of that increasingly scarce and precious resource: oil.

After the collapse of the Ba’ath government, while Iraq was being looted, the occupation forces, when not partaking themselves, ignored the plunder and protected the Iraq Ministry of Oil. Quickly big US corporations were on the scene. Halliburton and Bechtel were at the bloodied trough reveling in the no-bid contracts handed out by the corporate-beholden Bush regime. The aggression was driven by capitalism, manifested in its ultimate form as imperialism.

The slaying of tens-of-thousands of Iraqis, the incarceration, rape, torture, and humiliation of the Iraqi people was, and is being, perpetrated against them in the name of profit. It seems obvious that the way to thwart such greed-motivated violence is to make it unprofitable for the capitalists.

Jerre Skog recognized this and “advocate[d] a massive worldwide boycott of American, British, Australian and Israeli products and currency for as long as it takes for them to learn justice, decency and cooperation.”

Since corporate USA is so dominant internationally, and since there are a plethora of possible boycott targets, citizens are presented with myriad choices. However, for the strategy of boycotting to be effective it is essential that the boycott be selectively targeted. A scattergun approach to boycotts will cause small dents in the corporate shield but a solidarized approach focused on specific companies will pack more of a sting. No one likes to be stung and with this in mind future behavior will likely try to avoid being stung again.

There are many reasons to boycott a company: abuse of labor, disregard for the environment, price gouging, warmongering, etc. The key underpinning all the reasons is corporate inhumanity. Humanity is sacrificed in the pursuit of profit: profit over people.

Solidarity is important, so I advocate a strategy that requires no hardship and minimal sacrifice, something that anyone and everyone can get behind. The strategy involves a unified boycott against the apex of capitalism. The oil companies and car manufacturers are apex capitalists but this involves some hardship on the part of the consumer and threatens a unified front. Ideally a boycott must have a significant impact on the profits of a corporation. But a boycott will also draw negative attention to a corporation. This is a scary scenario for corporations which live in a world where perception is reality.

I will suggest four multinational corporations:

  • Coke
  • McDonald’s
  • Walmart
  • Starbucks

Coke is a corporation with a murderous reputation as labor leaders in Latin America are well aware. As a beverage itself it is deleterious and it has an atrocious record of disrespect for usurping the scarce resources of a region to the detriment of the local inhabitants as witnessed in India. Boycotts must target the real thing.

McDonald’s restaurants are a particularly visible sign of US culture worldwide. The McDonald’s culture is built on an addictive diet of dubious salubrity, deforestation, charities that reportedly exclude the Indigenous of the US, and militate against Palestinian rights in the scofflaw state of Israel.

Walmart is readily identified as a retail mammoth that tramples on worker’s dignity, neighborhood concerns, and the environment to increase the bottom line. As a multinational corporation that is spreading its tentacles further abroad, it is a shoe-in as a boycott target.

Starbucks, the Seattle-based international coffee chain, having already depressed the meager earnings of coffee farmers, deserves censure for its “cynical move” to sell fair-trade coffee. It is ill-represented by its chairman Howard Schultz who is a vehement Zionist and supporter of Israeli apartheid.

Which corporations to selectively focus a boycott against is debatable. The four suggested corporations could serve as a starting point for discussion. The citizens of the world can later through democratic means come to a final determination. There are plenty of alternatives to the four proposed foci of a boycott so little inconvenience is involved. It represents a relatively undemanding way for citizens to become active in promoting a better world. Of course there are also many corporations that could be added to the list; Microsoft comes lightning quick to mind. People are loath to give up their computers and since Microsoft has nearly monopolized software this boycott is reserved for the Apple users and Linux-savvy. The World Bank, KFC, Nestle, Johnson & Johnson are worthy of boycott and for those who can expand their boycott range this is laudatory. Too wide a range, however, could undermine a targeted boycott as it reduces the realm of alternative choices. The aim of this strategy is its simplicity and attainability. There are plenty of alternatives to the targeted four corporations. Everyone can do this and can do it together.

Boycotts are effective when done properly. Corporations must be made responsive to the people. As consumers, people will ultimately be the deciding factor. It is self-empowerment. The strategy is simple. It only requires the will.

Kim Petersen is a former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: kimohp@gmail.com. Twitter: @kimpetersen. Read other articles by Kim.