Mark Achbar's The Corporation: A Maoist Movie Review
Maoist Internationalist Movement

Corporate power for profit not the same as megabureaucracy without profit:

"The Corporation" offers no real world solutions or choices

The Corporation
Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbott & Joel Bakan
2004

This political documentary is made by the director of "Manufacturing Consent," Mark Achbar. And it shares some of the strengths and downfalls of that film in its political analysis. Overall this movie does a good job exposing the role of imperialist corporations and finance capital, in exploiting and oppressing the world's people.

The film begins by explaining a fact that many of its viewers probably did not know: A Corporation has been considered a legal "person" since the mid-1800s. This is what allows incorporated businesses to shield its investors and leaders from loss and penalty for actions taken by the corporation.

Because a corporation is legally considered a "person," the film undertakes a psychological analysis using standard diagnostic criteria used by psychologists, concluding that corporations meet the diagnostic criteria of a psychopath: "It is self-interested, inherently amoral, callous and deceitful; it breaches social and legal standards to get its way; it does not suffer from guilt, yet it can mimic the human qualities of empathy, caring and altruism."

To its credit, "The Corporation" does a good job with internationalist analysis. Its discussion of workers conditions focuses on the Third World, and the movie devotes considerable time to corporate machinations on the global scale to get friendly governments into positions of power. And the film details IBM's strategic alliance with Nazi Germany that continued well into World War II.

"The Corporation" features interviews with one corporate CEO who read a book about environmental destruction and realized his company (which manufactures rugs) was contributing to destroying the earth. He decided to change the practices of his company with the goal of eventually being entirely sustainable (even after years of working at this he still has a long way to go). This is nice that one corporate leader realized corporations are polluting the world and leaving it to others to clean up their mess made in the pursuit of profits. But that's one in a million, and other corporations are more than happy to take up the slack and increase pollution in this guy's place.

MIM's criticism of "Manufacturing Consent" applies to "The Corporation": Achbar continues to equate socialist and imperialist power without regard for their contents. One of the introductory narrative sentences in the film makes this mistake: "Like the Church, the Monarchy and the Communist Party in other times and places, the corporation is today's dominant institution." And this error leads to our other major criticism of the film: it offers no realistic alternative to imperialism. To their credit, the directors do offer stories of resistance against "The Corporation" including peasants organizing in India, anti-globalization protests in the U.$., and a Bolivian battle against privatized water. Shots of these protests, which are shown as sometimes winning small gains, are offered up as hope against corporate power. But history has shown us clearly that corporate power, a.k.a. imperialism, will not be defeated without revolutionary armed struggle. Smaller protests are important and valuable, but they do not make for a comprehensive strategy in fighting imperialism. And they must be carried out in a global context.

MIM recommends that people who see this film follow it up with reading Lenin's book "Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism" or at least picking up a copy of the "What is MIM?" pamphlet for basics on how and why to organize against imperialism. Overall it is good basic information for those unfamiliar with how corporations function under imperialism, but "The Corporation" is no substitute for Marxist-Leninist global analysis.

Note:
"The Corporation" web site http://www.thecorporation.tv


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