Face Of Fascism In A
Global System Heading For Collapse
A Review of The Shock Doctrine
"The signs of war on the horizon are clear.
The war, like fear, also has a smell.
And now we can begin to breathe its stench in our lands.
In the words of Naomi Klein, we need to prepare ourselves for the shock."
Subcomandante Marcos, EZLN –
Marcos of the Zapatistas is a poet, but he is not just any poet: he’s
a poet armed not only with words, but with bullets – and not only
with words and bullets, but with the heart of the Mayan people of Chiapas.
He is a poet and a revolutionary who abandoned the ivory tower for the
jungle – for the Selva Lacandona - to live with, to fight with,
and to die with los de ‘bajo – the people on the bottom,
who lives are crushed beneath the weight of the pyramid of Empire. He
has taken their part, their lot, their future as his own.
is a writer, one who sees with the eyes of her heart, one who backs
the knowledge and vision of the heart with the most rigorous research
- research she uses to build the sharpest and most aggressively articulated
and documented of cases, a case developed as if our lives depended on
it. They do. And Klein, like Subcomandante Marcos, has taken sides,
the side of the poor. Marcos has said her latest book, The Shock Doctrine:
The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, “is one of those books that is
worth having in your hands. It is also a very dangerous book.”
danger,” he says, “resides in that it is possible to understand
what it says.” In the clearest terms, The Shock Doctrine lays
bare the vicious nature of capitalist globalization, and shows us how
and why our world has been so radically transformed over the last half-century;
Klein spills the blood of the lie that “free markets” mean
free people. She builds and proves a solid - often breathtaking–
case that the global “free market” has been imposed around
the world through terror. She calls it “shock” – with
all the graphic undercurrents of electric shock treatments, torture
and deep trauma that the word implies – spelled out in exquisitely
researched detail. Her tale is the tale of the rise of “corporatism”
– a technical word for the economic and political system called
fascism – on a global scale. While a few Left pundits like Alexander
Cockburn almost dismiss Klein’s work for ignoring the precedents
of capitalist terrorism prior to the era of globalization, they miss
entirely that her book is focused on a particular period of history
and on stripping bare the real meaning of the time we have lived through
over the last generation. They also miss the power of the writing and
the sense of values and the heart-felt methodology that guides and informs
Marcos is right when he says that the book’s danger for the rulers
“resides in that it is possible to understand what it says.”
Klein has written a book on global political economy – one that
is as gripping as the best murder mystery, as well researched as the
best investigative journalism – on a par with the work of a Seymour
Hersh. The Shock Doctrine is as accessible as a history by Howard Zinn,
and nearly as evocative in some of its storytelling as the writing of
why The Shock Doctrine – surprisingly for a scathing and in-depth
leftist critique of globalization – is already on the best seller
lists in six countries. Klein tells a meaningful and fully comprehensible
story in human terms that makes sense of the world we have lived in.
It’s the global story of our lives, one that contextualizes, crystallizes
and personalizes the meaning of what we’ve lived through and often
only dimly understood. She brings our recent history, the world around
us, and thus our lives themselves, into sudden clarity and focus.
central metaphor – yes, this is a book on fascism and global political
economy that has a central metaphor – is shock treatment; its
development as a means to wipe clean the meaning of a human personality
and to replace it with a newly programmed persona, one in line with
the electrical master’s wishes. At the outset of her book, she
talks in depth with – she encounters - a survivor of electroshock
- one of the victims of the early experiments that would be used by
the CIA to write manuals on torture - as the woman struggles daily with
the problems of reclaiming a memory that has been erased, and with reconstructing
a life, a history and a personality that has been wiped out by a man
- call him a doctor, call him a torturer -sworn to heal her, by a man
sworn to do no harm.
In The Shock
Doctrine the personal and political are inseparable. The lies, betrayals
and brutal political manipulations of its antagonists (who seek to wipe
the slate clean in “maladjusted” countries and bring them
under their own control the way that experts in electroshock and CIA
torturers seek to wipe out human memory and personality) and the valiant
and often tragic resistance of its protagonists, are told with an immediacy
that is lacking in any kind of “charitable” pity or condescension.
Instead, the immediacy and vividness of her story is empowered and made
more compelling by a consistently rigorous research that, in Klein’s
hands, nails the truth and that makes its emotional impact inescapable.
she doesn’t bore us with the “correct” theoretical
arguments that critics like Cockburn would seem to prefer, Klein is
dealing in The Shock Doctrine with one of the core contradictions of
capitalism, the relationship between bourgeois dictatorship and bourgeois
democracy, and she shows us, through example after compelling example,
how, under capitalism and imperialism, the reality of bourgeois dictatorship
trumps the illusion of bourgeois democracy every time.
us in vivid examples the reality behind the theory, how “democracy”
and negotiation and the power to make decisions over our lives is reserved
for the capitalist and imperial elites, who then impose the end result
of their of their debates - their desires - on those who are most vulnerable
to them, and how they do so, consciously, just at the moments when we
are most critically vulnerable. As “free market” economist
Milton Friedman put it, “Only a crisis, actual or perceived, produces
real change.” The logic, actually, the pathology, Klein exposes,
is the now-global pathology of the rapist, the serial killer, the fascist,
of the torturers of Abu Ghraib; of the Hannibal Lectors in business
suits who both run and gorge themselves on the world. Here the essence
of the world capitalist, who, as Marx put it, is the “soul of
capitalism personified.” The brutal pathology and machinations
of these men are shown, in concrete example after example, unmistakably
for what they are; the pathology and methodology of torturers whose
aim is not mere terror, but the gutting of people’s lives and
livelihoods - the gutting of the world for their own enrichment. Klein
doesn’t rely, as such, on the terms for them that I’ve just
used. She’s not name-calling or breathing hell and damnation.
She lets the stories she tells and the documentation that backs the
stories - the documentation that makes them coherent extensions of one
another across decades and vast distances – speak for themselves.
They do just that, and the conclusions to be drawn from the picture
the stories reveal are unavoidable.
What do the
iconic events of our era - Pinochet's coup in Chile, the death squads
throughout Latin America, Tienanmen Square and the capitalist conversion
of China and Russia, the strangulation of the liberation struggle in
South Africa, NAFTA, the birth of a new spirit of resistance in Latin
America, the planes slamming into the towers in New York, the “Shock
and Awe” unleashed against Iraq, the so - called "War on
Terror," and the preparations for fascism in the US have to do
with one another? What are globalization and neoliberalism, and how
and why did they arise? Klein lays it out in stunning detail. See the
finely produced short film that introduces the book at the link below.
For all the
horror and overwhelming power of the global elites that Klein depicts,
her conclusion is as hopeful as it is realistic. She tells us, in effect,
that systems based on shock, terror, repression and exploitation cannot
be sustained. She puts the matter simply and with concrete examples
from around the world: Shock wears off. The story returns, memory, continuity,
coherence and meaning return. The soul returns. The victim of torture
can come to her senses once more. Submission can be cast aside, the
will to resist, the will to live, reasserts itself. Lives, homes, cultures
and economies shattered by crisis and repression – wiped out by
shock- can be restored. “Information,” she tells us, “is
shock resistance. Arm yourself.”
Santos is a Los Angeles based writer and editor. His essays
from 2006 can be found at:
He can be reached at: JuanSantos@Mexica.net.
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