You are here

This Changes Everything

Review: No Is Not Enough

By Samir Dathi - Red Pepper, October 6, 2017

Naomi Klein’s new books always provoke plenty of excitement on the left. For starters, they always seem to augur new waves of popular struggle. The Canadian journalist’s debut No Logo, an exposé of corporate super-branding, went to print with prophetic timing just months after the 1999 Seattle protest kicked off the alter-globalisation movement. Her 2007 follow up The Shock Doctrine, on how elites use crises to push through neoliberal policy, pre-empted the credit crunch. And This Changes Everything, on the clash between free-market fundamentalism and climate justice, was published during the tense build-up to the COP21 climate talks. Each book in this anti-neoliberal trilogy became a left-wing manifesto of sorts, making sense of pivotal moments in the movements and capturing the prevailing dissident mood.

Klein’s latest book No Is Not Enough, on the rise of Trumpism, comes at another pivotal (perhaps epochal) moment. But unlike her previous books, each of which took years to write, she wrote No Is Not Enough in a few months. This rapid turnaround was for a couple of reasons. First, due to necessity – Trump’s shock win required urgent analysis. And second, because this time she hasn’t sought to break new ground – for Klein, Trump embodies the worst excesses of the neoliberal phenomena she already covered in her first three books. She writes: ‘Trump is not a rupture at all, but rather the culmination – the logical end point – of a great many dangerous stories our culture has been telling for a very long time.’ So No Is Not Enough mainly revisits and ties together threads from her earlier canon. Much of the book is taken up describing Trump the ultimate super-brand, Trump the doctor of shock therapy, and Trump the climate vandal – as well as, of course, Trump the sexist and racist.

Clearly there are continuities between mainstay neoliberalism and Trump’s regime, and Klein provides plenty of material making the link. I do think her framing is somewhat misleading, however. Far from Trump being the apotheosis of neoliberalism, his rise is a morbid symptom of neoliberalism’s deep, intractable crisis beginning in 2008. Its nostra are increasingly ineffective. People across the political spectrum now talk of its foreseeable demise.

If the left doesn’t get its act together, the danger is that the rise of Trumpism threatens to turn into something qualitatively different – fascism. Klein acknowledges the risk. For example, in chapter 5 she says: ‘White supremacist and fascist movements – though they may always burn in the background – are far more likely to turn into wildfires during periods of sustained economic hardship and national decline.’ And: ‘We are allowing conditions eerily similar to those in the 1930s to be re‑created today.’

But these passages are relatively cursory and leave the impression that the encroachment of fascism is somewhat abstract, rather than a process presently unfolding in the movement around Trump and beyond. What’s going on around the world right now is not business as usual.

For me, the most forceful part of No Is Not Enough is in chapter 4, ‘The climate clock strikes midnight’, where Klein reprises her arguments from This Changes Everything. The reason conservatives deny climate change, she argues, is that they realise climate action necessitates collective struggle that would bring down the entire neoliberal system. The huge public investment, job creation, regulation, higher taxes and so on required to save the climate are simply not compatible with the current phase of capitalism.

Looking for answers to capitalism's disasters

Naomi Klein interviewed by Alan Maass - Socialist Worker, September 29, 2017

SO READING the newspaper for you these days must be like seeing the subjects of your books running through the headlines: disaster capitalism, the shock doctrine, climate change, corporate brands...

I WAS actually just looking at the crawl on CNN, and there was something about Trump's UN speech where he plugged one of his buildings. I think his first sentence when he spoke at the UN was about one of the Trump Towers.

UNBELIEVABLE. BUT let me ask you about that--can you talk about the connecting threads of what you've been writing about over these years?

I THINK that the strongest connecting thread is really the rise of corporate power and the increasing role of corporations in every aspect of life.

That's really the story of the rise of branded people that Trump embodies--these lifestyle brands and companies that are building identity around a corporation, as opposed to selling a product and marketing it.

Another one of the things I look at is clear from how Trump has already used shocks and crisis to further advance an extreme pro-corporate agenda that is about eliminating the last vestiges of the public sphere. We're seeing some examples of that now in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

And to even say "aftermath" raises another question, because there's a new storm bearing down on Puerto Rico. But already, you can see how Irma knocked out the electricity, and that then becomes the pretext for a further push for privatization.

Then there's the centrality of climate change denial within the Trump administration, which has been such a defining feature of what this administration has prioritized.

I don't think this has anything to do with denying the science of climate change. It has everything to do with them understanding that if humanity is, indeed, confronted with an existential threat--which is what climate change represents--then the entire corporate project they stand for falls to pieces, and we need a very different way to organize society and make public policy decisions.

'No Is Not Enough': Naomi Klein Writing Anti-Trump Blueprint for 'Shock Resistance'

By Andrea Germanos - Common Dreams, April 05, 2017

How did a man like Donald J. Trump get to be president? And how on earth can his dangerous agenda be fought?

For those burning questions, a forthcoming book described as "the toolkit for shock resistance" could well be an indispensable resource.

Authored by award-winning author and investigative journalist Naomi Klein, the book, No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need, will publish in the U.S. on June 13, 2017.

"Trump is extreme, but he's not a Martian," writes Klein. "On the contrary, he is the logical conclusion to many of the most dangerous trends of the past half century. He is the personification of the merger of humans and corporations—a one-man megabrand, with wife and children as spin-off brands."

A website for No Is Not Enough says the book

reveals, among other things, how Trump's election was not a peaceful transition, but a corporate takeover, one using deliberate shock tactics to generate wave after wave of crises and force through radical policies that will destroy people, the environment, the economy, and national security. This book is the toolkit for shock resistance, showing all of us how we can break Trump's spell and win the world we need.

In the wake of Trump's election, Klein, while accepting the 2016 Sydney Peace Prize, also offered her thoughts on the factors that paved the way for the real estate mogul's rise to power and the strategies needed for a movement to rise against Trump (as well as other Trump-esque figures).

"If there is a single overarching lesson in the Trump victory, perhaps it is this: Never, ever underestimate the power of hate, of direct appeals to power over the 'other'...especially during times of economic hardship," she said.

Another takeaway, she continued, is that "four decades of corporate, neoliberal policies and privatization, deregulation, free trade, and austerity" have ensured ongoing economic pain and in turn, enabled the rise of faux-populists like Trump.

An additional lesson is that "only a bold and genuinely re-distributive agenda has a hope of speaking to that pain and directing it where it belongs—the politician-purchasing elites who benefited so extravagantly from the auctioning off of public wealth, the looting of our land, water, and air, and the deregulation of our financial system."

"If we want to defend against the likes of Donald Trump—and every country has their own Trump—we must urgently confront and battle racism and misogyny in our culture, in our movements, and in ourselves. This cannot be an afterthought, it cannot be an add-on. It is central to how someone like Trump can rise to power."

Klein, whose other works include No Logo, This Changes Everything, and The Shock Doctrine, also recently joined The Intercept as a senior correspondent. There, she is tasked with monitoring the "shocks of the Trump era." Days after Trump's inauguration, she wrote that his administration

can be counted on to generate a tsunami of crises and shocks: economic shocks, as market bubbles burst; security shocks, as blowback from foreign belligerence comes home; weather shocks, as our climate is further destabilized; and industrial shocks, as oil pipelines spill and rigs collapse, which they tend to do, especially when enjoying light-touch regulation.

All this is dangerous enough. What's even worse is the way the Trump administration can be counted on to exploit these shocks politically and economically.

This is the first time one of Klein's books will be published by the independent, Chicago-based Haymarket Books, which has delivered works by esteemed authors including Noam Chomksy, Howard Zinn, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, and Winona LaDuke.

Key to the Leap: Leave the oil in the soil

By Ian Angus and John Riddell - Climate and Capitalism, November 6, 2016

In the Autumn 2016 issue of Canadian Dimension magazine George Martell argues that “the Leap Manifesto offers a genuine opportunity to move beyond social democracy — to directly face up to capitalism — if we are prepared to take the Manifesto’s demands seriously.”

Martell’s thoughtful essay is followed by responses from activists representing a variety of viewpoints, including the following contribution by John Riddell and Ian Angus.

Ian Angus is editor of Climate & Capitalism and an activist with Sustainable North Grenville. John Riddell, a historian of the socialist movement, is active in Toronto East End Against Line 9

George Martell correctly notes that the Leap Manifesto’s impact on the New Democratic Party has opened new possibilities for the Left. Its “direct opposition to the oppressive logic of global capitalism,” offers us a “genuine opportunity to move beyond social democracy.”

But to seize this opening, the Left must resolve a timescale problem that Martell does not address. His movement-building program is long-term, but the world climate crisis demands immediate action. We believe that the Leap Manifesto can bridge that gap.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

By Brad Hornick - System Change not Climate Change, October 4, 2016

The fresh new face Canada showed the world at the Paris COP21 climate meetings held out hope for many Canadian climate activists that a national course change was in the works.

In its less than a decade in power, the Harper government extinguished multiple important Canadian environmental laws, muzzled climate scientists, harassed environmental NGOs, created "anti-terrorism" legislation that targets First Nations and other pipeline activists, and generally introduced regressive and reactionary social policy while promoting Canada as the world's new petro-state.

Prime Minister Trudeau's political and social capital within Canada's environmental movement derives largely from distinguishing himself from a Harperite vision of a fossil fuel–driven economy that relies on the decimation of an environmental regulatory apparatus and colonial expansion deeper into First Nation territory.

Trudeau has adopted the same carbon emissions reduction target as Harper: 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, the weakest goals within the G7.

But after many environmental groups — such as Dogwood Initiative, Force of Nature, and Lead Now — campaigned to get the vote out to oust Harper through strategic voting, the results of the election only confirmed the largely bipartisan nature of Canadian plutocracy.

So far, Trudeau has not updated Canada's environmental assessment process as promised. The Liberals have sponsored a biased ministerial panel to assess both the Trans Mountain and Energy East pipeline expansions.

Canada's justice minister, Jody Wilson-Raybould, says Canada will embrace the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, but that adopting it into Canadian law would be "unworkable."

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna has green-lighted the massive Petronas fracking and LNG project, ignoring First Nations protests in defence of Lelu Island. Trudeau has issued work permits for the Site C hydroelectric project in B.C. against the rights of Treaty 8 peoples.

Theses on Saving the Planet

By Richard Smith - New Politics, Summer 2016

I don’t need to tell you we face an existential threat. Scientists tell us we face a “climate emergency.” Last year was the hottest year ever recorded, beating 2014, which beat 2012. We break new records every year. The fourteen hottest years ever recorded have been recorded since 2000. January and February temperatures were torrid. Global temperatures hit new all-time highs in February; the northern hemisphere breached the 2 degrees-Celsius-above-normal mark for the first time in recorded history. Svalbard, Norway, averaged 10 degrees Celsius above normal. Parts of the Arctic were more than 16 degrees Celsius warmer—basically no winter. There were record-setting low measures of maximum Arctic sea ice this “winter.” In the United States, the winter was record-warm from coast to coast, breaking all-time temperature records for February. The same in Asia. In the tropics, record warmth is massively bleaching the Great Barrier Reef.  

Keep in mind that it took from the dawn of the industrial age until last October for temperatures to climb 1.0 degree Celsius, and we’ve come an extra 0.4 degrees further in just the last five months. What’s driving this? More and more, people are coming to understand that the problem is not the climate. It’s our economic system.  

In her latest book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, Naomi Klein tersely sums up our plight: “Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war.” Climate scientists tell us that “our only hope of keeping warming below … 2 degrees Celsius is for wealthy countries to cut their emissions by somewhere in the neighborhood of 8–10 percent a year.” “The ‘free’ market simply cannot accomplish this task,” Klein writes, “What the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources; what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered growth.” 

So far, unfettered growth is winning. Instead of suppressing fossil fuel production, oil companies are pumping oil and gas from the ends of the earth. President Obama opened the Atlantic seaboard to drilling after he opened the Arctic and after he promoted his “All of the Above,” also known as “Drill Baby Drill,” plan to pump and drill and frack the country and beyond and bragged that he’s laid more pipelines than any president in history. 

Instead of minimizing fossil fuel consumption, consumers seem bent on maximizing consumption. The glut of oil production has only encouraged people to drive more and buy gas-hog SUVs and huge trucks that get worse gas mileage than the Cadillac land yachts of the 1950s. We’re burning up more fuel flying everywhere and installing air conditioners to beat the heat.

Instead of imposing binding limits on emissions, governments have kicked the can down the road for 22 consecutive years. At Paris in December, they didn’t even try. Instead they promoted hallucinatory fantasies of huge “negative emissions” to be had by some high-tech “carbon capture and storage”—again, always “someday” in the future, never today; no such technology presently exists in any practicable form nor is ever likely to. The U.S. government has abandoned subsidizing carbon capture. Carbon capture is not a technology. Carbon capture is a propaganda tool to let consumers rationalize obscene, unsustainable overconsumption: Not to worry, we’ll fix it tomorrow. But tomorrow never comes. Year after year, decade after decade, climate summits collapse in disarray because no country will sacrifice jobs and growth today to save their children tomorrow. 

And not just fossil fuels, we’re devouring everything—minerals, lumber, fresh water, fish stolen from the mouths of sharks and whales; we’re saving nothing for the future, reserving nothing for other species, which instead we’re just driving to the wall.  

Instead of inventing ways to minimize resource consumption, our smartest companies like Apple and Google work only to invent “needs” we don’t really need: drones, robots, iPhones 5-6-7, 3D printers, hoverboards, the “Internet of Things,” self-driving cars, biometric T-shirts, electric planes—the endless quest for “the next big thing,” but really just new ways to devour more resources and convert them into “product.” Instead of making products to be as durable and long-lasting as possible to conserve resources, our top companies pay their brilliant engineers, designers, and marketers to devise ways to make them wear out faster, to become obsolete, disposable, replaced in ever-faster cycles. 

Our capitalist economy is geared completely wrong. All the incentives are wrong. As an American retail analyst famously wrote way back in 1955:  

Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption. … We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing pace.1

And so it is. For three hundred years, the engine of capitalist economic development revolutionized technology, and science improved our lives in countless ways. But now this out-of-control engine is consuming us to death, driving us off the cliff and into the abyss.  

What to do? Mainstream economists have had two approaches. Economists such as Herman Daly, Tim Jackson, and Serge Latouche have advocated “degrowth.” The idea is that capitalism can be slowed down, made to run at a “steady state” or even to “degrow.” I have argued elsewhere that these theorists just don’t understand capitalism. Capitalist “degrowth” just means recession, if not depression. Imagine Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon Mobil, telling his investors, “Sorry, but to save the planet, we cannot grow profits next year, and in fact, we have to cut production (and thus profits) by 8–10 percent next year and every year thereafter, for the next three-and-a-half decades, by which time we will be basically out of business.” How long would it take your retirement fund to dump that stock? 

The other approach is “green capitalism.” The idea here is that growth can go on forever but be rendered benign for the environment. Economists who advocate green capitalism call for carbon taxes, solar power, LED lightbulbs. We are no doubt better off for some of these policies and technologies. But green capitalism can’t save us. Here and there the planet’s needs and the corporations’ needs do coincide—but they do not align systematically. To save the planet, corporations would have to subordinate growth and profits to saving the humans—but they can’t do this. They’re not responsible to us. They’re responsible to shareholders. Shareholders can’t subordinate growth to saving the planet and still compete in the world market—especially against China. What difference does it make if Germany gets 30 percent of electricity from renewables when what it produces with that electricity, its biggest export industry, is global warmers: gasoline-powered cars and gratuitously filthy diesels to boot? What difference if Apple powers all its servers in California with solar power when what it produces in China (and with coal power) is just completely disposable iPhones and iPads? Americans alone junk 100 million cell phones a year—mostly perfectly workable but “so last year.” The environmental cost of producing millions and billions of cellphones, computers, Gameboys, and all the other “devices” is just staggeringly unsustainable. IPhones are expensive. The cost of that new iPhone 6 is your children.  

What about cap-and-trade policies? No capitalist economy, no government, will accept cap-and-trade. Why? Because it would impose a “cap.” A cap is a finite limit on greenhouse gas emissions like CO2. But every government understands that a cap on emissions means a cap on growth. That’s why no industrialized country has been willing to accept a cap. As George Bush senior put it back in 1992, “The American way of life is not up for negotiation.” And if the Americans won’t cut emissions, why should the Chinese?

What about carbon taxes? Lots of governments pass carbon taxes, but they’re all too feeble to make any real difference. Scientists tell us that to keep global temperatures from rising beyond 2 degrees Celsius and prevent runaway global warming, the industrialized countries would have to suppress emissions by 6–10 percent per year, truly draconian levels, for the next 35 years to get emissions down to where they need to be by 2050. But cutting emissions by anything like that amount would mean industrial shutdowns across the board. So governments pass carbon taxes to placate environmentalists, but they pass taxes that are too feeble to force any real change. That’s why oil company executives at Shell, ExxonMobil, and so on all support carbon taxes. Carbon taxes are just an indulgence, just another cost of doing business, which they can also just pass along to their customers. Most importantly, it’s not a cap, so it won’t stop growth. These market approaches aren’t designed to cut fossil fuel consumption. They’re designed to delay or to avoid cutting fossil fuel consumption, to keep the engines of growth revving, to keep prioritizing growth and jobs over the environment.  

It’s not difficult to stop global warming. It’s completely obvious and simple. If we want to cut fossil fuel consumption we just have to enforce cuts in consumption, just ration oil and gas, like governments did during World War II, like when the U.S. government banned DDT, or when it banned ozone-depleting refrigerant chlorofluorocarbons.

The problem is that, given capitalism, cutting fossil fuel consumption would immediately bankrupt the largest companies in the world and plunge us into economic collapse, mass unemployment, and depression.  

Our whole economy is based on fossil fuel: mining, manufacturing, heating, transportation, petrochemicals, construction, industrial farming, tourism, you name it. Electricity and heat account for 25 percent of CO2 emissions; industry, 21 percent; transportation, 14 percent; agriculture, forestry, and deforestation, 24 percent.2 If we have to cut emissions by 90 percent, renewable energy is a start but only part of the picture. We need a completely different kind of economy, an economy geared to minimizing resource consumption, not maximizing it, an economy geared to sustainability and equity, not profit. 

A few thoughts on studying the most radical social movement of the 21st century

By John Foran - Resilience, March 14, 2016

Introduction

We are living through an unprecedented crisis, in a world beset by massive social problems – the obscene poverty and inequality that neoliberal capitalist globalization has wreaked on at least two-thirds of humanity, the immobility of the political elite almost everywhere, and cultures of violence that poison our lives from the most intimate relations to the mass murder of the world’s wars.

These interconnected problems are rooted in long-standing processes of inequality – patriarchy, racism, colonialism, capitalism, and now corporate-controlled globalization – whose ongoing, overlapping legacies are making the early twenty-first century a crucial hinge of history.

And now, with climate change, we are facing a perfect storm of suffering. In fact, given the timeline that climate science is screaming at us, we confront a crisis of humanity and of all species that must be resolved for better or worse by those living on this precarious planet today.  We are called by the urgency of the crisis to “change everything” as Naomi Klein puts it, and to do so in something like the next two decades.

With other observers, activists, and scholars I believe that only the assembling of the broadest, most powerful social movement the world has ever seen has a chance of doing this in the narrow window the science imposes on us. The movements for environmental, climate, and social justice that I have spent my life studying and now participate in must become much stronger than at present.  But my reading of world history leads me to believe that they can succeed.  They must, if we are to safely navigate the present crisis and even come out of it living in ways that are far more egalitarian, deeply democratic, and fulfilling than the world we presently inhabit.

Those of us who are academics (or journalists, or writers and creators of culture of every kind) need to focus our minds now, I think, on the “wicked” problem of climate change, to reinvigorate our own disciplines and work on our interdisciplinary skills (another way of saying learning how to connect the dots) and bring all this into a wide open dialogue, in ways that are consistent with the first principle of sociology, of ecology, of systems thinking, and, ironically enough, of Buddhism, as I understand it (and of Gaia theory, for that matter):  everything is connected.

How Strong is the Climate Justice Movement?

The movement I study and am part of is growing, getting bigger, stronger, smarter, more diverse, and more creative with every passing year – and that’s important.

But it’s still not enough.

The task – and the question on every scholar-activist’s mind – is how do we get from where we are to where we need to be?  And how do we do that thoughtfully, quickly, and for the long haul?

If I had to try to sum up the broad outlines of what the climate justice movement is planning going into 2016, it would be something like Resist, Rethink, Retool, Re-imagine…

Kill King Capital

By Paul Street - CounterPunch, February 9, 2016

“If you’re going to shoot the king, don’t miss,” Niccolò Machiavelli wrote in The Prince (1505). “The injury that is to be done,” Machiavelli added, “ought to be of such a kind that one does not stand in fear of revenge.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote something similar in his journal in September of 1843: “Never strike a king unless you are sure you shall kill him.”

I first ran across a version of this sentiment many years ago (exactly where I do not recall) while I was researching some U.S. Black and labor history.[1] As I recall it was more class-specific, something along these lines: “if a peasant takes up arms against the king, he’d better well kill him.” The idea was that a high noble might be able to get away with challenging the king but a peasant certainly could not. If peasants and artisans were going to rebel, they’d better make a full revolution of it.

“No Desire to Get Rid of the Profit Motive”

Nowadays I think the aphorism applies to capital and the capitalist class. Take Bernie Sanders. He has called himself a “democratic socialist” and campaigns against “the billionaire class,” drawing large and approving crowds. He has taken more than a few at least rhetorical shots at the king, which in the U.S. is big capitalist and corporate-financial power – what Edward S. Herman and David Peterson have called the “the unelected dictatorship of money.”

In reality, however, Sanders, for all his sloganeering about “revolution,” has not remotely proposed that we figure out how to kill the king of capitalism. Sanders is at most a social democratically inclined New Deal liberal. His vision for America is one in which commanding heights economic decisions and ownership remain firmly in private, profit-taking hands while the government intervenes to a limited extent with the purpose of partially regulating some business activities and distributing income and wealth and social benefits in a more egalitarian and humane – less neoliberal – way. And as Bill Blum recently argued:

“Social democrats and democratic socialists [like Bernie Sanders] have no desire to get rid of the profit motive. Last November, Sanders gave a speech at Georgetown University in Washington about his positive view of democratic socialism, including its place in the policies of presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson. In defining what democratic socialism means to him, Sanders said: ‘I don’t believe government should take over the grocery store down the street or own the means of production.’”

“I personally could live with the neighborhood grocery store remaining in private hands, but larger institutions are always a threat; the larger and richer they are the more tempting and easier it is for them to put profit ahead of the public’s welfare, and to purchase politicians. The question of socialism is inseparable from the question of public ownership of the means of production. The question thus facing ‘socialists’ like Sanders is this: When all your idealistic visions for a more humane, more just, more equitable, and more rational society run head-first into the stone wall of the profit motive … which of the two gives way?” (William Blum, “Is Bernie Sanders a Socialist?”)

Answer: the profit motive. The “private sector” (I use quote markets because Big Business draws heavily on public subsidy and protection while wreaking monumental and multi-dimensional havoc on public experience) still rules under Bernie’s recommended “political revolution.” He can call himself a socialist but he says nothing about the need for a social revolution to expropriate the expropriators and remove the masters of wealth and property from the disastrous private ownership and control of economy, society, politics, and culture – from private/corporate ownership and control of the means of production, finance, distribution, and communication.

The vast global U.S. military Empire – intimately bound up with American capitalist class power at home and abroad – also continues under Sanders’ “revolution.” He doesn’t even take rhetorical shots at King Capital’s evil twin imperialism. Sanders is strikingly mute on the Pentagon system, no small silence given the devastatingly destructive impact of the nation’s giant military industrial complex on social and environmental well-being within and beyond the U.S. “homeland.”