Volume 20, Number 12
Winter Soldier Campaign
Iraq veterans against the war -- Ivaw
Eighty and Still Protesting
Nut House Econ
Behind Burma's Repression
Nukes Are Back
Eleanor J. Bader
2 Book Reviews
U.S. & Eygpt
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Book Review - The Shock Doctrine By Naomi Klein
The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
New York, Metropolitan, 2007, pp. 576
As with much scholarly political writing, Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism is characterized by a deep schism divorcing its material from its analysis. The content of The Shock Doctrine is outstanding, as Klein conducts a broad, rigorous, and richly informed survey of capitalism's creation and exploitation of disaster areas around the globe. From the CIA-backed overthrow of Allende to the ultimate imposition of neo-liberalism throughout the Southern Cone, Bolivia, Poland, Russia, China, South Africa, and Iraq, Klein describes how U.S.-led neo-liberal capitalism—inspired by Milton Friedman and his Chicago School disciples—rolled back social and economic advances via torture, death squads, and IMF-led "debt punishment."
The story is not new, as Alexander Cockburn notes in his review on Counterpunch. However, the book makes fascinating reading due to Klein's adept historicization of contemporary crises, such as the 2004 Asian Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and the 2003 war on Iraq. Her survey is equally enhanced by her ability to bring together an enormous amount of material within a cohesive analytical framework written in engaging and generally understated prose. Unfortunately, the weakness of this framework betrays the importance of her material.
The Shock Doctrine explicates contemporary capitalist ravages through the idea of shock therapy. In this interpretation, the important factor is that the imposition of neo-liberalism such as the IMF's notorious Structural Adjustment Programs— whereby high-interest loans to capital-starved countries are predicated on mandatory privatization and repeal of regulations and social welfare, as well as requiring restructuring toward single export economies, though Klein does not discuss this latter element—can best be understood as resulting and benefiting from events comparable to the trauma of administered shock. Deprived of its moorings following a crisis such as Pinochet's coup or the collapse of the USSR, public confusion is exploited in order to implement regressive economic policy that in other cases would spark popular outcry. Based partly on Ewen Cameron's 1950s sensory deprivation/overload shock experiments at McGill University—where a calibrated system of shocks was administered to "erase" memory as a precondition for psychiatric "healing"—the state application seeks to erase obstacles to profit, including the historical memory of whole societies.
As Cockburn argues, this thesis is limited, as it cannot account for the relatively peaceful implementation of neo-liberalism into the Indian economy or, for that matter, can it account for Bill Clinton's crisis-free attacks on the welfare state during the 1990s. Torture further constitutes a contrived metaphor, Cockburn continues, since one need only pay attention to the history of recurring primitive accumulation or the enclosure acts to see that capitalism has always been a system of destruction and recreation—a system of crisis.
Moreover, Klein's conception of a fundamental transformation in the economics of warfare following 9/11 is overstated. Previously, she writes, "The primary economic role of wars...was as a means to open new markets that had been sealed off and to generate postwar peacetime booms. Now wars and disaster responses are so fully privatized that they are themselves the new market." Yet this ignores, as she does throughout, that it was the Second World War's mass state spending for the nascent military industrial complex—and not the New Deal—that enabled the U.S. to emerge from the Depression. This military spending was so vital that the cessation of the war produced a great deal of concern over the effects of returning to a pre-Lend Lease economy. Thus, the permanent militarized economy and the Cold War were born.
Finally, Klein's description of "collective regression" following the 9/11 attacks is a simplification. While 9/11 did produce a reactionary backlash, it simultaneously created fissures in the dominant national ideology, creating openings marked by uncharacteristically critical analyses in the corporate media while normally marginalized writers like Noam Chomsky reached the New York Times bestseller list.
Whereas The Shock Doctrine provides an excellent description of contemporary capitalism, it largely fails to explain it. Klein's erroneous conception of capitalism has her focusing on individual actors instead of larger transformations affecting the postwar economy. Her focus on Friedman, John Williamson, Jeffrey Sachs, and other economists, described as the self-serving ideologues they undoubtedly are, attributes the triumph of neo-liberalism to little more than the force of will of certain individuals—an incongruously conservative theory of historical transformation by an apparent radical. Klein's description of lifelong leftists who embraced Chicago School economics, such as Argentina's Carlos Menem and Bolivia's Victor Paz Estenssoro, indicates a primacy of economics rather than politics. The acceptance of neo-liberalism by other nominally liberal politicians like Clinton, Blair, and Schroeder further suggests that more was at work in the advent of neo-liberalism than the mere determination of individual ideologues.
Unbelievably, Klein omits any discussion of the 1973-4 global recession that triggered a fundamental transformation in the world economy. Described by Eric Hobsbawm as marking the end of the golden age of capitalism that had ruled since 1945, it was the 1973 recession that created the conditions for the resuscitation of laissez faire, hitherto discredited for its failure to respond to the Great Depression. It was not that laissez faire was now viewed as a panacea (save by some ideologues), but its longstanding demands to cut regulation and social spending—i.e., taxation (a crucial point Klein ignores)— achieved a new use value with the decline in profit. The post-1973 global climate was characterized by enhanced competition, dwindling markets, productive gluts, growing environmental ruination, and, as Immanuel Wallerstein describes in The Decline of American Power, the exhaustion of the historic surplus of rural labor, accelerating the long-term increase in taxes and wages. With strained outward growth, capitalism began to cannibalize itself. Less a response to good or bad politics than economic imperatives, neo-liberalism reduced taxation and provided new areas for investment.
This basic but oft ignored reality is what makes Klein's advocacy of Keynesian economics so disconcerting. This stance has no grasp of the unmanageable long-term costs that required its abandonment in the first place (Klein attributes its decline to political decision making following the end of the Cold War, which would seem to conflict with her description of early 1980s Thatcher- ism), while it dismisses the fact that, again, Keynesianism had little role in bailing capitalism out of the Great Depression. On a tactical level, advocating for Keynesian reform is also problematic. Klein accurately notes that the New Deal was intended to buy off increasingly radicalized workers and prevent the growing threat of revolution. By demanding Keynesianism and not revolution she has forfeited the bargaining leverage that allowed workers to win Keynes- ianism in the first place. More significantly, even if a return to Keynesianism were plausible it should be asked whether it is desirable.
Klein does not appear to recognize the fundamental and inevitable destructiveness of not just laissez-faire, but capitalism per se. Her quote of Ghandi decrying "the root of all evil—human greed" is a fallacy that obscures that capitalism's motor is perpetual expansion in general and economic survival within competition in particular; capitalism exploits, but hardly requires greed. Similarly, her description of Keynesian welfare as "generous" dismisses the point that under capitalism surplus value extracted from wage labor is the source of profit. Giving a pittance back should hardly be something to be congratulated.
Klein's defense of so-called mixed economies is buttressed by her dismissal of the state capitalism of the former USSR, which she incorrectly labels "state Communism" or "authoritarian Communism." Klein's failure to utilize Marx has her missing the fact that the USSR's transfer of private property to state hands and the resulting continuation of alienated labor characterized the Soviet system as something far more similar to U.S. capitalism than anything Marx supported. Her inability to critique alienated labor and private property— whether in corporate or national hands—results in vague assertions that "Markets need not be fundamentalist." This combination of belief in the positive potential of not only markets but the state, along with criticism of the logical manifestations of those institutions—a contradiction also found in works like Greg Grandin's Empire's Workshop, Mahmood Mamdani's Good Muslim, Bad Muslim, and David Harvey's The New Imperialism—is reflective of textbook liberal ideology: things can get better within the current system. They cannot. The physical environment alone and, therefore, the survival of the species, desperately requires the destruction of capitalism and its governing apparatus. Klein's impressive collection of data demonstrates the relentless rapa- ciousness of the status quo while promising more of the same.
Joshua Sperber is a freelance writer living in New York.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.