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Naomi Klein

No Finish Line in Sight: An Interview with Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein interviewed by John Tarleton - The Indypendent, July 11, 2017

Donald Trump’s election to the presidency has prompted an outpouring of protest and activism from millions of people, including many who had not been politically engaged before. But what will it take for “the resistance” to not only defeat Trump but push forward a transformative agenda to address the multiple crises of our time?

In her best-selling new book, No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics And Winning The World We Need, Naomi Klein draws from her previous books on corporate branding, the politics of climate change and the history of neoliberal elites around the world using moments of profound crisis to advance unpopular policies. With hindsight, her work over the past two decades anticipates in many ways the rise of a right-wing reality television star who wants to dismantle democratic institutions and burn as much fossil fuels as possible.

“It’s like bad fiction it’s so obvious,” Klein told The Indypendent.

In No Is Not Enough, she doesn’t shy away from showing how Trump emerged from a decaying political culture to seize power, or warning that the worst is yet to come. But she refuses to wallow in despair, arguing instead that the oppositional forces conjured up by Trump have a unique opportunity to build a much more just and humane world than anything we have seen before — provided we fight not only what we’re against but what we’re for. This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for length and clarity.

JOHN TARLETON: This book begins with a scene from the night of Trump’s election in which you are meeting with a group of prominent activists in Australia. The meeting gradually runs out of steam as people in the room watch the election results come in over their phones. Can you describe how you got from that moment of shock and horror to producing this book, which is ultimately quite hopeful?

NAOMI KLEIN: (Laughs) Slowly, I would say. I think that day the only emotion I could compare Trump’s election to was a feeling that many of us involved in the anti-corporate globalization movement had after 9/11. We had been part of this movement where there was a lot of forward momentum and a deepening of analysis and an opening of new political spaces, and then just this kind of instant feeling that all of those spaces were going to be shut down. A lot of us projected that political moment into Trump’s election. But, I think we gave him more power than he actually has.

There are a lot of political spaces where it is possible for progress to happen whether at the sub-national level in the United States, internationally or just in movement spaces. I think there was a slow process of realizing that this did not necessarily have to be a repeat of a closing off political progress. There are ways in which the assumption that from now on we’re only playing defense is true and unavoidable, but there are also ways in which it is not necessarily the case.

You assert that Trump’s election is not an aberration but the fulfillment of 50 years of historical events.

What could be a more obvious outcome of a culture that has turned consumption into a way of life and fetishizes the rich and dominance-based logic — power over other people, over the planet, over nature at every level — than to have Donald Trump become president of the United States? It’s like bad fiction it’s so obvious, which is why I wanted to question this language of shock being used about Trump’s election.

There’s a way in which accepting the idea that he comes as a shock absolves the broader culture of a shared responsibility in creating a context where Trump could succeed politically. And that goes from philanthro-capitalism to commercial news turning itself into reality television before Trump showed up to play so successfully in that domain because this is his world. But he’s not the one who turned news into reality TV. Cable news did that. So that’s why I don’t spend a lot of time in the book psychologizing Trump. I want to look at the trends that produced him because an even more dangerous version of Trump could rise to the fore. There are folks who are more racist than him out there who might decide to occupy that space.

A Resistance Movement for the Planet

By Ethemcan Turhan and Cem İskender Aydın - Entitle Blog, July 7, 2017

Juan Cruz Ferre (JCF): There is overwhelming evidence that demonstrates how anthropogenic climate change is out of control and will lead to global environmental catastrophe – without a major overhaul of energy production. In the February 2017 issue of the Monthly Review, you point out that although we have been presented with precise and indisputable estimations, science and social science institutions have failed to come up with effective solutions. Why do you think this is the case?

John Bellamy Foster (JBF): We are in an emergency situation in the Anthropocene epoch in which the disruption of the Earth system, particularly the climate, is threatening the planet as a place of human habitation. However, our political-economic system, capitalism, is geared primarily to the accumulation of capital, which prevents us from addressing this enormous challenge and accelerates the destruction. Natural scientists have done an excellent and courageous job of sounding the alarm on the enormous dangers of the continuation of business as usual with respect to carbon emissions and other planetary boundaries. But mainstream social science as it exists today has almost completely internalized capitalist ideology; so much so that conventional social scientists are completely unable to address the problem on the scale and in the historical terms that are necessary. They are accustomed to the view that society long ago “conquered” nature and that social science concerns only people-people relations, never people-nature relations. This feeds a denialism where Earth system-scale problems are concerned. Those mainstream social scientists who do address environmental issues more often than not do so as if we are dealing with fairly normal conditions, and not a planetary emergency, not a no-analogue situation.

There can be no gradualist, ecomodernist answer to the dire ecological problems we face, because when looking at the human effect on the planet there is nothing gradual about it; it is a Great Acceleration and a rift in the Earth system. The problem is rising exponentially, while worsening even faster than that would suggest, because we are in the process of crossing all sorts critical thresholds and facing a bewildering number of tipping points.

JCF: If conversion to renewable energy could halt or reverse the march of environmental crisis, why aren’t we moving in that direction at the right pace?

JBF: The short answer is “profits.” The long answer goes something like this: There are two major barriers: (1) vested interests that are tied into the fossil-fuel financial complex, and (2) the higher rate of profitability in the economy to be obtained from the fossil-fuel economy. It is not just a question of energy return on energy investment. The fossil-fuel infrastructure already exists, giving fossil fuels a decisive advantage in terms of profitability and capital accumulation over alternative energy. Any alternative energy system requires that a whole new energy infrastructure be built up practically from scratch before it can really compete. There are also far greater subsidies for fossil fuels. And fossil fuels represent, in capitalist accounting, a kind of “free gift” of nature to capital, more so than even solar power.

Five Days that Shook My World, Part One: The Making of a Critical Thinking Community

By John Foran - Resilience.org, July 5, 2017

I spent five days in June at a most unusual gathering.  Unusual, because unlike the many academic conferences, the workshops, the handful of “symposia” I’ve attended, this one seemed right on the mark, existentially and politically, for our moment.

Dubbed B.Y.O.B., for “Bring Your Own Brain,” and put on by a collective of students from Big Sky High School in Missoula, Montana who go by the hashtag #freeusfromclimatechaos (FUCC, in case you don’t get the biting but playful humor at the heart of their critique), this had been nine months in the making, assisted by their Spanish teacher, Jay Bostrom and a crew of adult allies from their school and mentors from the local activist community affinity group the ZooTown Zaps.

It was, in fact, a pretty credible incarnation of a North American, youth-led experiment with Zapatismo; recall that to the thousands of queries the Zapatistas have received from activists over the past twenty-three years about what they should be doing, the consistent answer has been:  “Go and do what we do, but in your own way, in your own place of origin, your own home, your own community.”

Some of these students – and their teachers – had already made a trip to Chiapas, to see the Zapatista revolution first hand.  A year ago, they had engaged in a Skyped event with indigenous activists from around the world.  Last summer, based on those conversations, they decided that this year they would go to the root of the problem, and they arrived at … climate chaos.  All of this would be unusual even for a college class in the United States.

'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.

The Anti-Inauguration: Building Resistance in the Trump Era

By Anand Gopal, Owen Jones, Naomi Klein, Jeremy Scahill, and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor - Verso Books, January 26, 2017

“It’s not enough to simply say ‘No’ to attacks [from the Trump administration]. It’s not enough because we know that where we are now, before the attacks come, is entirely unacceptable. The levels of inequality, the levels of racism―and the planet chaos that we have unleashed. We need radical system change.” —Naomi Klein

The Anti-Inauguration presents an initial discussion of what resistance should look like in the age of Trump—and what kind of future we should be fighting for. Featuring contributions from Naomi Klein, Jeremy Scahill, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Anand Gopal, and Owen Jones.

The five essential speeches presented here are taken from “The Anti-Inauguration,” held on inauguration night 2017 at the historic Lincoln Theatre in Washington, DC. The Anti-Inauguration event and ebook are joint projects of Jacobin, Haymarket Books and Verso Books.

Setting out a left agenda in the Trump era

By Danny Katch - Socialist Worker, January 23, 2017

THE ENORMOUS anti-Trump protests on January 21 are a major opportunity to build a new political resistance. Yet the expanding but still small radical left in the U.S. also faces a major challenge in creating an alternative to the failed strategy of channeling all opposition through the dead end of the Democratic Party.

With the aim of strengthening this left, Jacobin magazine, Haymarket Books and Verso Books organized "The Anti-Inauguration"--a panel discussion of five prominent writers and activists in Washington D.C.'s Lincoln Theatre on the night Trump took office to talk about how to build an opposition to the threat he represents and the rotten status quo that got us into this mess. You can watch a video stream of the event at Facebook.

"Donald Trump has been inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States," said Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation. "The shock and disbelief must now give way to defiance and organizing. Part of that pivot demands that we understand how we got here in the first place, but more importantly how we move forward."

War correspondent Anand Gopal, author of No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes, ran through two decades of anti-Muslim measures enacted by Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama before concluding:

It's only because of all of those policies that came before, it's only because of the dog-whistle politics around the questions of Islam, it's only because of the institutionalizing of Islamophobia by three administrations that we could come to a point in 2016 where a man can stand for president and openly call for banning Muslims.

So we need to resist Trump, but we also need to resist a system that makes a Donald Trump possible. That means allying with everybody who's on our side, but maintaining independence from a liberal establishment that aided and abetted this calamity from the very beginning.

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.

If Nature Is Sacred, Capitalism Is Wicked

By Jake Johnson - Common Dreams, October 3, 2016

In his remarkable study When Corporations Rule the World, David Korten recounts a meeting he attended ahead of the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The meeting was led, Korten notes, by indigenous leaders who were anxious about the direction in which global environmental policy was being steered. They were also, quite justifiably, worried about who was doing the steering.

"In the conference's preparatory meetings," Korten writes, "corporatists...proposed that to save nature we must put a price on her."

It's a familiar story: Capitalism, we are often told, can be made green. Incentives can be established. The corporations previously leading the way in pollution, plunder, and exploitation can, with a few adjustments, become the world's leaders in the development of clean energy and pave the way to a sustainable future.

As is often the case, it is those who have seen up close the harm done by corporate greed who most quickly see through the facade.

"These indigenous leaders recognized that this proposal would accelerate the monopolization by the richest among us of the resources essential to human life," Korten observed. "Their position was clear and unbending. Earth is our Sacred Mother and she is not for sale. Her care is our sacred responsibility. Her fruits must be equitably and responsibly shared by all."

This conflict between capitalism and the environment is not, of course, uncharted terrain. Naomi Klein, in her bestselling book This Changes Everything, argues that an economic order predicated on the relentless pursuit of profit is incompatible with a world in which natural resources are used with the necessary care and restraint.

It truly is, as the subtitle of Klein's book notes, "capitalism versus the climate." Terrifyingly, capitalism is winning.

Privatization of Public Education: This Changes Everything

By Morna McDermott - Educational Alchemy, January 16, 2016

“The process of taking on the corporate-state power nexus that underpins the extractive economy is leading a great many people to face up to the underlying democratic crisis that has allowed multinationals to be the authors of the laws under which they operate …. What is a democracy if it doesn’t encompass the capacity to decide, collectively, to protect something that no one can live without” (Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything, p. 361)

I recently read Naomi Klein’s new book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate. I was struck by how many similarities there were between the struggle to abate massive climate disaster and the current fight for public education. I think this is a good analogy because like climate change, education “reform” (aka privatization) is everywhere and nowhere. While the issues are clearly related to human and civil rights, there are no lunch counters to sit at, no visible or tangible signs of du-jure segregation. Rather … like the emissions, fracking and melting of ice caps, the erosion of public education is slow, insidious, and difficult to pin point by location or single origin. The problem feels just “too big” to tackle on some days.

I noted many marked parallels in both the nature/cause of the problem (between Klein’s book and education reform), as well as visions for a solution to both. They (ed reform and the capitalist/big oil co’s) are both “extrationist” in nature: We are mining the earth for coal, oil, natural gas, and other resources just as we are mining children’s data for profit, mining our children’s bodies as “human capital,” and mining schools of our tax dollars to line the pockets of corporations. They share an ideology of money, and the money to fund the ideology.

Fast forward to the conclusion: In order to 1) wrest public education from the hands of privatizers/corporate control ….and 2) to create PUBLIC schools that are sustainable, equitable and meaningful for all children (something we have never done before), we must be willing to completely revolutionize the way in which we think about, and act, in the world. Simple. But a tall order.

Naomi Klein says as much; that in order to truly address climate change, we must critically re-examine the entirety of the socio political and economic values embedded within a deregulated, global free- market paradigm. Ecological justice is social justice, just as education justice is tied to ecological and economic and cultural justice.

Think … lead in water in Flint MI and the effects on educational opportunities for those children.

IT’S ALL CONNECTED: The corporate interests that are driving privatization and global control of health services, access to food and water, and management of other public institutions (i.e. prisons) are the SAME corporations, using the same playbook, to dismantle public education.  And this issue is GLOBAL.

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