Naomi Klein, Shock Doctrine, Hurricane Sandy and Unions

“When I wrote The Shock Doctrine, I was documenting crimes of the past. The good news is that this is a crime in progress; it is still within our power to stop it. Let’s make sure that, this time, the good guys win.”

Naomi Klein writing about Hurricane Sandy and how there already attempts to use Sandy’s destructive power as a cash grab for large corporations.

In THE SHOCK DOCTRINE, Naomi Klein explodes the myth that the global free market triumphed democratically. Exposing the thinking, the money trail and the puppet strings behind the world-changing crises and wars of the last four decades, The Shock Doctrine is the gripping story of how America’s “free market” policies have come to dominate the world– through the exploitation of disaster-shocked people and countries. At the most chaotic juncture in Iraq’s civil war, a new law is unveiled that would allow Shell and BP to claim the country’s vast oil reserves…. Immediately following September 11, the Bush Administration quietly out-sources the running of the “War on Terror” to Halliburton and Blackwater…. After a tsunami wipes out the coasts of Southeast Asia, the pristine beaches are auctioned off to tourist resorts…. New Orleans’s residents, scattered from Hurricane Katrina, discover that their public housing, hospitals and schools will never be reopened…. These events are examples of “the shock doctrine”: using the public’s disorientation following massive collective shocks – wars, terrorist attacks, or natural disasters — to achieve control by imposing economic shock therapy.

Naomi Klein on the role of the unions.

Uploaded by  on Mar 9, 2011

Hurricane Katrina was exploited as an opportunity for deregulation, and the same calls were already being made less than three days after Sandy made landfall on the east coast of the US.  Just as after Katrina, there are dire warnings that the “pro-union rules such as the Davis-Bacon Act” (a statute that requires workers on public works projects to be paid not the minimum wage, but the prevailing wage in the region) will hold up reconstruction.  There have been calls for state legislation to be changed so that roads, bridges and tunnels could be rebuilt by private companies, which could install tolls and keep the profits.  But worst of all, there is a suggestion that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) should create “free-trade zones – in which all normal regulations, licensing and taxes [are] suspended”. This corporate free-for-all would, apparently, “better provide the goods and services victims need”.

In other words, the poorest and most vulnerable, those most impacted by the disaster, are to have removed what little remains of labour protection laws, privatisation of their scant public services and to provide a tax hand-out to the corporations who will already be benefiting from these disaster-justified changes.  Naomi Klein suggests that this is the tiniest glimpse into the ways large corporations are seeking to reap enormous profits from climate chaos.

But she also suggests that there is a different way and that the reconstruction from Sandy is a great place to start road testing those ideas.

Unlike the disaster capitalists who use crisis to end-run democracy, a People’s Recovery (as many from the Occupy movement are already demanding) would call for new democratic processes, including neighbourhood assemblies, to decide how hard-hit communities should be rebuilt. The overriding principle must be addressing the twin crises of inequality and climate change at the same time. For starters, that means reconstruction that doesn’t just create jobs but jobs that pay a living wage. It means not just more public transit, but energy-efficient, affordable housing along those transit lines. It also means not just more renewable power, but democratic community control over those projects.

In the UK, we have our own, home-grown disaster capitalists.  We are told of the looming energy short-fall which necessitates building nuclear power stations and granting licenses for gas fracking.  In the name of ‘creating growth’, there are Beecroft proposals for removing employee protection, ‘no-fault dismissal’ and George Osborne’s plans for an “employee-owner” scheme.  The supposed necessity of reducing the so-called structural deficit provides the imperative for privatisation of the NHS and other public services, together with horrifying cuts in benefits to the disabled and chronically sick.  And at the same time George Osborne has reduced of corporation tax to 24%, thereby increasing the structural deficit.

We do not need to wait for a hurricane to hit the UK.  Tory/LD policies have managed to escalate a global banking crisis into a national disaster affecting virtually every area of ordinary British life.  We have every reason to be demanding a ‘People’s Recovery’ programme of our own… right now!

11 thoughts on “Naomi Klein, Shock Doctrine, Hurricane Sandy and Unions

  1. This corporate free-for-all would, apparently, “better provide the goods and services victims need”

    Call that as bullsh*t.

    My own experience (Gloucestershire, July 2007, when a third of a million people lost mains water supply for a fortnight) tells me that the private sector response was hopelessly inadequate and the only way to ensure that people got a reasonable supply of drinking water was to call in the Army to distribute it.


  2. Reblogged this on skwalker1964 and commented:
    I’ve written on various occasions about disaster capitalism – how neoliberals exploit (and even create or simulate) disasters in order to dismantle social provisions and replace them with private, profit-making structures. See and as examples where it’s proven and documented.

    This excellent article by @syzygysyzygysue (Twitter ID) touches on the same practice and its likely consequences for the US north-east after Hurricane Sandy. Please take a look.


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