Vandana Shiva: People’s Economies vs Corporate Control


Photo: Women work on a small farm in Orissa, India. (Photo: 2006 IDEI, Courtesy of Photoshare)

Ever since the Corporate Form was “invented” – in its earliest avatar as the collective East India Companies – those who have ruled via corporation have found innovative “means” new to extract wealth from the earth and people, leaving both poorer in a zero-sum “game”.

During The Raj – Company Raj – extraction was carried out through Lagaan – taxation on land & agriculture. Between 1765 to 1815,the Company is recorded to have pirated £ 18 Million annually from India. 50 % of the produce was taken as Lagaan, creating famines like the Great Bengal Famine.

The Company destroyed the people’s circular, sustainable and just economies – in which 70% of the value of what rural areas produced circulated in the village economy – and replaced them with linear, extractive economies, where most wealth produced in India went to enrich England, bleeding India.

In recent years, the corporate empire has found new instruments of extraction, with patents and (what should be called) ‘capitalisation’, being two prominent ones. The Chemical/Biotech/Seed Industry “innovated” and “invented” patents on life and patents on seeds, as a means to extract profits from farmers.

The second instrument – capitalisation – the financialisation of the economy is equally perverse. It has punished real people, marginalised the real wealth that people produce in real economies, and rewarded only the capital-ists. The capital economy has become 70 times bigger than there real economy. The Wall street Crash of 2008 was a result of the creation of this global casino. We were protected, insulated in India because our economy was still real.

The concentration of the worlds wealth in the hands of the 1% is a consequence of patent-isation, capital-isation, and the digit-isation of our lives. The latest bait and switch being used by globalised corporate power, to worm its way into the households of India, is the   demonising or “Demonetisation” (as it has been “Hash!-tagged”) of Indian Currency.

The “demonetisation” of the India’s economy of more that 1 billion people at the stroke of midnight on 8th November 2016 is the next gamble of the corporate empire to steal people’s wealth, lock it away behind an encryption key, and shut down people’s economies overnight leaving only the parts of the economy willing to indulge the payment-gateway-keeper. Naspers Group is that gatekeeper for Digital India.

More than 90% of India functions on cash to sustain the people’s economy. Cash is a neutral form of money, one person’s hard earned money is as potent as another’s; there are no “AMEX Black” ₹ 1000 notes, yet. 86% of all the currency was made illegal overnight, but that is a de-humanised number. If a chaiwallah (who does not yet find himself dictating monetary policy), accumulates the change he earns, exchanging for ₹100, then ₹500, working his way up to a collection of ₹1000 notes as his savings. He prefers the ₹1000 because they are easier to carry and secure, especially since he does not have a bank account – because he has no address – because he can’t afford to rent an address and has not inherited one. At the stroke of midnight on 8th November 2016, this chai-but-no-house-wallah disappeared from the economy. A Nescafé machine will replace him.

The purest currency in people’s economies is life, it is love, it is community, and communion, it is trust. That is why the most civilised societies, when measured in terms of their humanity, happiness and well being, are societies based on barter. When cash becomes the currency of exchange , it can still build community through face to face transactions . People’s Economies are based  on solidarity.

Just as patents on seeds were an illegitimate attempt to criminalise farmers by making seed saving illegal, “#demonetisation” is an illegitimate attempt to criminalise the people’s economy which is 80% of India’s real economy.

That this is the aim is clear from the statement of the man who became the richest in the world through patents and the digital economy -Bill Gates .

As he stated in his speech for the ‘NITI-Lectures series: Transforming India’ in the presence of PM Narendra Modi and his Cabinet colleagues,”the government’s bold move to demonetise high-value denominations+ and replace them with new notes with high security features+ was an important step to move away from the shadow economy to a more transparent economy.”

Gates said digital transactions would rise dramatically, and, in the next several years, India would become one of the most digitised economies not just by size, but percentage as well.

The “Pirate of Silicon Valley” has just declared the vibrant community based Swadeshi economy of the people of India a “shadow” economy, just because it is beyond the reach of his digital monopoly. We are not shadows of your empire, Mr Gates. We are hard working, honest people who still know how to trust and share, who have community and real creativity to run and sustain our economy.  Transparency as defined by you as the asymmetric power of the financial and digital world over people, to take control of our wealth, our wellbeing, our lives, our freedoms.

It is the end of being in a relationship of trust with a person you know in your local economy, and see face to face. It is the end of people being transparent to each other as human beings. It is not financial transparency either that is supposed to end “Black Money”. You and Microsoft are part of the “Black Economy”.  A 2012 report from the US Senate found that Microsoft’s use of offshore subsidiaries enabled it to avoid taxes of $4.5 billion, a sum greater than the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation annual grant making ($3.6 billion in 2014). You want to teach us transparency?

How Piracy Opens Doors for Windows, an LA Times article dated 9th April 2006 quotes Bill Gates:

“Although about 3 million computers get sold every year in China, people don’t pay for the software. Someday they will, though,” Gates told an audience at the University of Washington. “And as long as they’re going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.”

Gates’ payment portals are here to collect.

In 1857 we drove out the first Corporation that ruled the world, the East India Company. In 1947 we drove out the British who controlled 80% of the territories of the world. Our determination to defend our economic freedoms, economic democracy and economic sovereignty through Swadeshi is stronger than ever. The need for Swadeshi has never been greater.We will defend and sustain our people’s economies -by the people, of the people, for the people, against the assault of the corporate economy run by the corporations, for the corporations.

Dr. Vandana Shiva is a philosopher, environmental activist and eco feminist. She is the founder/director of Navdanya Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology. She is author of numerous books including, Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis; Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply; Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace; and Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development. Shiva has also served as an adviser to governments in India and abroad as well as NGOs, including the International Forum on Globalization, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization and the Third World Network. She has received numerous awards, including 1993 Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize) and the 2010 Sydney Peace Prize.