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Wednesday, 14 June 2017 05:46

Moving Beyond Resistance to Social, Political and Economic Transformation

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naomikleinbookcover 1Now is the time to double up efforts to achieve ideals of justice. (Photo: Haymarket Books)

The title of Naomi Klein's book released today -- and available from Truthout by clicking here -- is No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. Although Klein spends the first part of her book detailing the appalling rise of Trump as an outgrowth of neoliberalism and branding trends over the past few decades, she also offers strategies for "reverse shock." This turns her theory of "the shock doctrine"-- the use of crises to advance ultra-capitalist economics and government -- on its head. What she suggests is that a shock-response strategy can also offer the opportunity for positive radical change.

As Klein exhorts in the conclusion to No Is Not Enough,

With this elevation of the basest figures to the most exalted of positions, the culture of maximum extraction, of endless grabbing and disposing, has reached some kind of breaking point. Clearly, it is the culture itself that must be confronted now, and not only policy by policy, but at the root.

Indeed, radical is defined as "of or going to the root." Klein argues that there is potentially a window of opportunity to break through "the shock doctrine" and adopt transformative progressive policies as neoliberal excesses teeter and perhaps collapse:

But crises, as we have seen them, do not always cause societies to regress and give up. There is also the ... option -- that, faced with a grave common threat, we can choose to come together and make an evolutionary leap. We can choose, as the Reverend William Barber puts it, "to be the moral defibrillators of our time and shock the heart of this nation and build a movement of resistance and hope and love." We can, in other words, surprise the hell out of our opponents -- by being united, focused, and determined. By refusing to fall for those tired old shock tactics. By refusing to be afraid, no matter how much we are tested....

How we respond to this crisis is up to us.

Klein points to the bloody coup against Salvador Allende, and how it was followed by an era of privatization and military rule, as a deplorable model of how the "shock doctrine" is utilized to crush democracies and the public sector. However, she also notes that if the public is prepared for a possible shock, it can neutralize it by being proactive. This requires advocates of policies that benefit the public sphere to be working in advance to develop coordinated responses to a given shock that will allow -- albeit with a great deal of struggle --for radical and not reactionary change.

To be immobilized by the mortifying words and actions of the Trump administration is to be vulnerable to a further dismantling of the public sphere and an increase in economic, racial and gender-based oppression. Resistance is vital. However, it will be heartily tested in the case of a "shock," such as a major terrorist attack on US soil. Therefore, the option Klein lays out is for advocates to focus on ideals and build coalitions to achieve them, to be ready to push back against a major shock, and to work toward objectives that conventional wisdom and DC pundits currently view as radical.

In her new book, Klein has a section sub-headed "When Utopia Lends a Hand," in which she writes:

Here is one theory: The interplay between lofty dreams and earthly victories has always been at the heart of moments of deep transformation.

This past Saturday, June 10, Klein participated in a panel called "From Knowledge to Action" at The Peoples Summit -- a gathering organized in Chicago by 2016 backers of Bernie Sanders. Joining her were Jane Sanders, Amy Goodman, Katrina vanden Heuvel and Danny Glover. All of the panelists took it as a given that democracy and justice were under relentless siege, but there was also unanimity behind the idea that dismay should not lead to the abandonment of progressive goals. Katrina vanden Heuvel echoed Klein's written sentiments when she cited the galvanizing phrase, "What seems impossible becomes inevitable."

The consensus was that the leadership of the progressive movement should be transformational and not transactional or strictly reactive. It should resist but simultaneously develop a plan for justice. Danny Glover encouraged the crowd to continue the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who in 1968 excoriated the "triplets" of militarism, racism and materialism (capitalism).

One can argue that until a mega-shock arrives that will allow Trump and Congress to deconstruct civil society and hand the keys over to corporations and plutocrats, Trump is applying several mini-shocks per day, with his series of grotesque actions. This disheartens people and deprives many of hope. That is partially what it is meant to do. Trump is a man who believes that "winners" earn the right to be merciless against "losers." Meanwhile, Klein argues that "no is not enough" -- that we can collaborate and organize and end up "winning the world we need."