How Do We Shift Power to the People and Away from Concentrated Corporate Power?

Education, Organization and a Culture of Resistance Will Build an Independent Movement for Real Change

The power of concentrated corporate capital was on display in Washington last week, as it has been all year.  The incoming Chair of the Congressional committee responsible for banking regulation, Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL) says “my view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.”  And President Obama sat down with the CEOs of 20 large corporations to talk about how he could help Big Business increase their already record profits. And, in the Supreme Court, 13 of 16 business cases were ruled in favor of business interests.

These actions echo a year where Sen. Durbin complained the banks “own” the Congress and where President Obama worked with the health insurance industry to keep them in control of health care while claiming it was “reform,” and where the Supreme Court in Citizens United vastly increased corporate power in elections by allowing unlimited spending.

Corporate capital dominates the government and prevents the changes urgently needed in so many crisis issues for the nation and the world.

In the last year, through Prosperity Agenda I worked on many of these critical issues including the impact of corporate power on elections, providing health care to all Americans, restructuring finance regulation to prevent another economic collapse and reigning in spending on weapons and war.  In all of these areas we had some impact, but in 2011 and beyond, much more will be needed.

Shifting power from concentrated corporate interests to the people is no easy task.  It has taken years of work by those interests to gain the power that they have. It will take years of work to weaken the corporate stranglehold. The growing crises remind us of the urgency of our work and the need for a commitment to sustain and increase our efforts.

In preparing this article I looked back at a memo written by Lewis Powell two months before he was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Nixon.  The memo was written in 1971 at a time when the business community felt it was rapidly losing power and that the capitalist system was under severe attack.  Powell, a lawyer for the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, described as “the fundamental premise” of his paper that “business and the enterprise system are in deep trouble, and the hour is late.”  They saw attacks coming in the colleges, in the media, on the streets, in bookstores and from politicians.  Everywhere they looked they were under attack and on the verge of total defeat – the end of free markets and crony capitalism.

The purpose of the Powell memo, written to the head of the Chamber of Commerce, was to lay out a plan to restore and build corporate power.  Powell laid out a plan that is instructive for those of us who want to shift power from concentrated capital to the people, who want to see a democratized economy in which people have greater control of their economic lives and are more represented in both the economy and government.

Powell’s plan was a long-term one built primarily on education and organization. In response to a “broadly based and consistently pursued” attack on corporate power, Powell wrote “independent and uncoordinated activity by individual corporations, as important as this is, will not be sufficient. Strength lies in organization, in careful long-range planning and implementation, in consistency of action over an indefinite period of years, in the scale of financing available only through joint effort, and in the political power available only through united action and national organizations.”  He urged action in universities, with speaker’s bureaus, in publishing, influencing the media and working in the courts, as well as in electoral politics.

We also have a long term plan to educate, organize and unite our efforts:

  • We’ve used education in writing, media and video.   We strive for but do not rely on the corporate media, which is also part of the problem, to cover our work. We also recognize that too often they are part of the problem. We make our own media and work with the independent media.
  • We’ve reached out to allied organizations and allied movements in order to help develop consistent and coordinated actions.  And we’ve asked our thousands of members to take actions in unison so our voices are multiplied.
  • We’ve used the courts and instruments of government to challenge the illegal actions of the Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads seeking investigation and prosecution of their abuses in the 2010 elections. See more here, and here. We’ve done the same when we seek corporate responsibility for companies like Massey Energy and their CEO Don Blankenship when 29 miners were killed in West Virginia (more here) and were pleased when he resigned.

While education and organization are critical ingredients to bringing change, this is a slow process and many of the issues the nation faces are urgent. This is why we also pursue acts of protest and resistance.  We did this in the health care debate and most recently in the anti-war movement.  Resistance has always been an ingredient for bringing change whether it was people sitting in at segregated lunch counters, or blacks sitting in the white section of the bus, or Cindy Sheehan camping outside of George Bush’s ranch.  In the next year we will see a growing culture of resistance in the United States.

Other acts of resistance are seen around the release of documents by WikiLeaks.  The reaction demonstrated corporations and the government working together to block the American people from knowing what is being done in our name. VISA, Mastercard, Bank of America, PayPal, Amazon and various financial institutions stopped processing funds for WikiLeaks at the request of the government. But the truth is getting out and we now know what the government is doing in our name and must take action to stop it. Knowing the truth and not acting is complicity. More and more Americans are acting. We see resistance in the more than 1,000 mirror sites of WikiLeaks, in the more than 100,000 people who downloaded the WikiLeaks “insurance policy” and were prepared to release documents if Julian Assange were harmed. It is seen in Americans organizing for their right to know, and to reaffirm Freedom of the Press. We are organizing under the banner, with a petition signed by notables and now by thousands.  Join us and urge others to as well.

It is going to take education, organization and resistance as part of a persistent independent movement for political change.  Those who want real change achieve it by voting for parties dominated by the donations of corporate executives.  Voting for corporate parties re-enforces corporate power.  We need independent electoral activity along with an independent movement and independent media to shift the power to the people.

There is a growing movement for real paradigm shifting change.  It is a slow process that is accelerating and 2011 promises to be a milestone year.  Please join us in our efforts at www.ProsperityAgenda.US.  We need all Americans who want a democratized economy where power is shifted to the people joining us.

Kevin Zeese co-directs Popular Resistance and is on the coordinating council for the Maryland Green Party. Read other articles by Kevin, or visit Kevin's website.

17 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Don Hawkins said on December 24th, 2010 at 9:18am #

    Names as you have to admit the media they all do it at once. Well not do it tell the truth. Nonsense sell’s or something else at play?

    How Do We Shift Power to the People and Away from Concentrated Corporate Power?
    Repeat the obvious repeat the obvious

  2. bozh said on December 24th, 2010 at 9:58am #

    hopefully, resistance wld work much, some, little, too little. and that wld stop or cut dwn on u.s slaughter of ‘aliens’.

    i am not so sure that complaining solely about what a particular administration does amounts to a bean worth of effective resistance.

    in fact, the only resistance that ever worked [to whatever effect– better or worse] anywhere at any time is that of a governmental [but opposing] party obtaining the reins.
    in u.s yet to put in congress even one candidate. resistance has no elected person in congress to date.
    and u.s is solely governed by ‘laws’. to which cia-fbi-army-police-prez [powers]
    sears an allegiance to! that’s the alpha and omega of it all!

    now, if americans wld not be killing ‘alien’ children, i cld say, Go ahead! it is ur region; so do as u please! tnx

  3. Mark E. Smith said on December 24th, 2010 at 4:15pm #

    Why not title the article, “How to allow the corporations to continue to hold power over the American people for many, many more years?”

    That’s what will happen if you keep playing their game, knowing it is fixed, and hoping you might win.

    But there’s another answer, one you’re probably not ready for, Kevin. What if the corporations spent billions of dollars to elect their puppet candidates, and nobody voted?

    Not voted for independent or third party candidates who wouldn’t have a majority and the seniority needed to make changes, but simply refused to vote–refused to grant the consent of the governed to corporate rule.

    When you vote, no matter who or what you vote for or against, you are legitimizing a system you can’t hold accountable, and granting it your consent. I really wish you’d come to your senses and stop.

    A liberal, progressive, or Tea Partier, is somebody who thinks our system is broken and needs to be reformed. A radical is somebody who knows that our system is working exactly they way it was supposed to when the framers of our Constitution established a government in a way such that those who owned the country, would always rule the country.

    They gave Congress staggered terms so that we could never throw ALL the bums out at once. They didn’t give us the right of recall at the federal level and made Congress the sole judge of its own elections, returns, and qualifications. And they ensured that the popular vote wasn’t the final say and could be ignored or overturned any time the rich didn’t like it.

    As I’ve been fond of saying lately, I wouldn’t be so annoyed at those who insist on doing their civic duty, if they would at least remember to flush afterward.

  4. Don Hawkins said on December 24th, 2010 at 5:26pm #

    power over the American people for many, many more years?”

    No I don’t think so change those many many to very few. First oil and not sure if these so called powerful take that back I know these so called power in reality are rather weak minded. They will take the easy way out just can’t use known knowledge or reason just instinct and illusion of knowledge. So far seems very clear. Vote for what reason.

  5. Deadbeat said on December 24th, 2010 at 11:43pm #

    Keven Zeese writes …

    While education and organization are critical ingredients to bringing change, this is a slow process and many of the issues the nation faces are urgent. This is why we also pursue acts of protest and resistance. We did this in the health care debate and most recently in the anti-war movement. Resistance has always been an ingredient for bringing change whether it was people sitting in at segregated lunch counters, or blacks sitting in the white section of the bus, or Cindy Sheehan camping outside of George Bush’s ranch. In the next year we will see a growing culture of resistance in the United States.

    There seem to me to be a confusion and contradiction in Kevin Zeese though patterns. Education is vital since he is trying to generate a struggle against “concentrated corporate power”. Why is this necessary because unlike the Civil Rights struggle there was no real need to mount an educational campaign about being BLACK. Blacks quickly understood what it meant to be Black in the U.S.

    However to challenge “concentrated corporate power” you have to analyze and address the problems:

    [1] The pseudo-Left has failed to provide a Marxist analysis and have been withdrawing form Marxism for decades. Even Zeese in this article substitutes “concentrated corporate power” for Capitalism.

    [2] This withdrawal has enable a right-wing minded working class that is totally ignorant in how to analyze economic issues from a working class/Marxist perspective.

    [3] The Left has failed to educate working class about class and the Left has substituted identity politics for CLASS based politics. Therefore with a working class so unconsciousness it only will weaken the effectiveness of protests. The best example of this is the Tea Party. The Tea Party is a result of the weaken conditions of the Left.

    [4] An analysis is then required of WHY the Left is so weak and how it can be restored. As Zeese is well aware, the “Left” failure and active role is sabotaging Nader in 2004 help to weaken the Green Party changes of achieving the 5% threshold. Why Zeese would now sign onto an appeal to Progressive Democrats is dumbfounding.

    [5] Another reason why analysis is important is that resistance only from a DEFENSIVE perspective is fundamentally weak albeit it can be a start to build solidarity. However in order to HOLD together there has to be an IDEAL that the struggle is FOR. Today there is real no political-economic vision coming from the Left. The recent health-care debate was fundamentally flawed and really didn’t incorporate the basic needs of most of the poor and downtrodden.

    The reason you won’t be any change is that Mr. Zeese failure to offer real thoughtful analysis that is useful to devise a firm strategy and solidarity.

  6. Don Hawkins said on December 25th, 2010 at 6:43am #

    The Constitution frequently gets lip service in Congress, but House Republicans next year will make sure it gets a lot more than that – the new rules the incoming majority party proposed this week call for a full reading of the country’s founding document on the floor of the House on Jan. 6. Washington Times

    Well Bozh here we go.

  7. Don Hawkins said on December 25th, 2010 at 7:06am #

    Probably hear about free market principles after they read the constitution.

    The typical Fortune 500 CEO invests money that she didn’t contribute from her own past savings, but that lacks any external owner capable of exercising any genuine control over it. Corporate management spends other people’s money, amounting to de facto owners of it. Shareholders are conventionally regarded as residual claimants, because in legal theory they have a claim on all revenue that’s left over after after all contractual claims are paid. But in the real world, it makes more sense to say that the shareholder is a contractual claimant with even fewer rights than a bondholder, and that management is the real residual claimant. A shareholder is entitled only to whatever dividend management sees fit to issue, if any. But senior management is entitled to whatever salaries and bonuses they can get, through mutual logrolling with the board of directors. Kevin Carson


  8. bozh said on December 25th, 2010 at 7:13am #

    yes, i see it as marks sees it.
    in fact, americans vote for wars they later regret. however, regret appears never based on a principle, but on reasons.
    such as, this or that war [it’s never an aggression, anyway] is costing too much, it s failing, it won’t succeed, etc.

    re: amers voting for wars? not via a referendum and not explicitly or in a legal way.
    amers simply vote for an individual.
    it’s the sheriff mentality: we got sheriff and also bananas. what else cld we hope for?

  9. kbzeese said on December 25th, 2010 at 7:29am #

    Interesting discussion, lots I agree with, but Don, where did I sign onto progressive Democrats. I don’t remember putting my signature on that form! We are not going to end corporate power by supporting either corporate party. That just entrenches corporate power more. Even supporting progressive Democrats keeps the Democrats in power and that party is led by corporatists.

  10. bozh said on December 25th, 2010 at 7:32am #

    in ten words or less:
    i am completely cured of christmasitis. how about newyearitis? that’s nine words!

    well, i am still thinking whether to go to bed on 31st at nine or nine thirty smthing.

    it wld depend on if my wife wld still be fit to talk with that late at night.
    btw, i am still working on a nicer looking ass that my wife or smallhead wants me to have.
    just remember, women never get insulted– they get angrrrry! men, on the other side, never get angrrry– they get insulted!
    ok! i an now running in circles. positive side on this topic? they are getting bigger and bigger!nx

  11. Don Hawkins said on December 25th, 2010 at 7:36am #

    The media here in the States and just who is in control of programing. Well a great place to start maybe the business round table and what a table it is. Again how do they all know how to do it at once you know 100% looney tunes well tell the truth about climate change or war and the advertisers sorry look’s like we need to go to another network. I can see it now Fox New’s no longer the fair and balanced channel but the most powerful name in new’s. The so called fight in Congress coming up and the election in 2012 go ahead CNN tell the truth probably not. And so it goes.

  12. Don Hawkins said on December 25th, 2010 at 7:46am #

    Kevin I did’s write those comments about your post as I always’ try and look at the big picture. I know you see and hear like most of us the question is still how if we wish to survive the we being all life on Earth that will become as rare as a planet that can support life in just one galaxy and there are more than one. I agree the Democrat’s part of the two headed……………………………..?

    Time for a little rock and roll.

  13. bozh said on December 25th, 2010 at 7:56am #

    a generalized label such as “corporate power” wld be of use if the user of such label wld list all its salient factors/actors.

    the label aslo seems to be in- or inter-jected at the middle of the story.
    beginnings and endings never enter the picture: the whole picture or reality!

    by design? or unawareness? well, readers, please judge! i am only a messenger!

    to me “corporate power” is a part of historical record or one cld say: a stream with no begin nor end!
    in short, it had been evolving for millennia; wld continue to evolve for millennia unless….

    but why even use that label at all? why not say: banking-banksters, cosa nostra, spy-police-army echelons, ‘educators’, clergy, pols, et al forever changing tactics, while telos remains the same! tnx

  14. Don Hawkins said on December 25th, 2010 at 8:13am #

    The answer is that civilization, as we know it, is largely the creation of psychopaths. All civilizations, our own included, have been built on slavery and mass murder. Psychopaths have played a disproportionate role in the development of civilization, because they are hard-wired to lie, kill, cheat, steal, torture, manipulate, and generally inflict great suffering on other humans without feeling any remorse, in order to establish their own sense of security through domination. The inventor of civilization — the first tribal chieftain who successfully brainwashed an army of controlled mass murderers — was almost certainly a genetic psychopath. Since that momentous discovery, psychopaths have enjoyed a significant advantage over non-psychopaths in the struggle for power in civilizational hierarchies — especially military hierarchies. Clinton Callahan

    Disproportionate role in the development of civilization and now in old twenty ten just on the off chance maybe is taught in school’s, if I ever lost my eye’s; guess what song am listening too.

  15. bozh said on December 25th, 2010 at 8:56am #

    don, yes

    i even think that our civility to one another had been destroyed ca 10 k yrs ago by the samethinkers we have now in canada, u.s, poland, serbia, croatia, italy, estonia, greece, jordan, u.k, france, and the most important u.s state: israel or alaska.

    in my language i banned terms like neothinkers; aka, neocons. paleocons or samecons, might be ok!

    sorry to think that the samecons don’t change if u just nag them. provided u even cld nag them into doing anything they don’t want to do!

    and does one think they read anything– anything at all? with so many interesting reality shows to watch; such as small, big, medium leaks; white-black condoms used, ultimate fighting; palin, beck, shows, etc.

    and there is always bush and bushes to beat about! it is entertainment coming outa one’s ears. even i am mightily amused! tnx

  16. Deadbeat said on December 25th, 2010 at 4:20pm #

    kbzeese writes …

    where did I sign onto progressive Democrats. I don’t remember putting my signature on that form!


    You signed a letter of appeal to progressive Democrats. Here’s the link to the article where readers here can find your signature …

    An Open Letter to the Left Establishment

    It just so happens that the term “Left Establishment” is a euphemistic substitute for “progressive Democrats”.

    This letter is a call for active support of protest to Michael Moore, Norman Solomon, Katrina van den Heuvel, Michael Eric Dyson, Barbara Ehrenreich, Thomas Frank, Tom Hayden, Bill Fletcher Jr., Jesse Jackson Jr., and other high profile progressive supporters of the Obama electoral campaign.

    It’s very disheartening to see you make an appeal to Michael Moore who got on his knees with Bill Maher to beg Nader not to run in 2004. Moore then went on to support the pro-war Wesley Clark during the Democratic primaries. Norman Solomon had the audacity to scold the late great Peter Camejo in a “debate” for running in 2004.

    All of these “progressive Democrats” knew what was at stake and importance of that electoral campaign in 2004 — that Nader was 3 million new votes shy of the 5% threshold. These progressive Democrats acted as if Bush was so vile that they were willing to sabotage Nader’s candidacy for a Democratic Party victory. Their support for the Democrats in 2004 helped to hollow out the Green Party leaving it and the Left in the pathetic condition we now face.

    Back then Kevin you were fully aware that progressive Democrats offered no solution to the tweedle-dee-tweedle-dum duopoly which is why you were as staunch supporter of Nader. To now see you appeal to the “Dark Side” is a DEFEAT to what you and many stood for back in 2004 when there was a real possibility to open up space for a real PROGRESSIVE 3rd Party alternative to the Democrats.

  17. Mulga Mumblebrain said on December 26th, 2010 at 3:06pm #

    Don, your paragraph concerning the dominance of psychopaths is entirely correct, I believe, but it does not address the means by which rule by psychopaths has been institutionalised. In my opinion that has come about because the psychos created an operating system, capitalism, that both consolidates their power and dominance, but also inculcates the subject, serf, populations with the ‘ideals’ and behaviour patterns of the psychopathic overlords. I believe that capitalist psychopathy may be innate, ie genetic, but it also can be learned, and the crude behaviourism that is such a mark of market capitalist ‘democracies’ ruthlessly reinforces greedy individualism and antipathy to others, and punishes contrary behaviour. As a result you get sad, pathetic, ludicrous outbursts like the Tea Party morons, who imagine their enemies to be those even poorer than themselves, or those trying, in vain, to keep all our grandchildren from suffering ecological doom, and worship and admire just those corporate plutocrats who have destroyed their living standards and life prospects. The brainwashing achievement is remarkable, even if we are talking of denizens of the shallow end of the gene pool. And they all have a vote!