Socialist Aotearoa's Omar Hamed presents Naomi Klein's analysis of the Shock Doctrine, before examining how the National Party Government in New Zealand attempts to ram through attacks on the poor following the earthquake in Christchurch. Concluding, Joe Carolan presents a three point plan for resisting the Shock Doctrine in Aotearoa today.
Disaster Socialism or Shock Doctrine
1. The amazing response by the people of Christchurch to start co-operatively organising the rescue efforts, food and water provisions and the pooling of community resources even in the absence of “law and order” has been amazing.
2. One community collective of anarchists, Beyond Resistance, in the working class Christchurch East suburbs has been, “Using cars, bikes or on foot, they have managed to take prepared food and water out to those in need. Often they are the first contact with the outside world for Christchurch East residents, and their efforts have been very appreciated. Bottled water, soup, vegetables and gas canisters for cookers have been the main items of need.”
3. When faced with a terrible natural disaster people work together collectively and co-operatively without distinction of class or hierarchy.
4. In one suburb – Addington the Addington Action Committee — a residents based group which has sprung up in response to the Earthquake. "While not hit as hard as CHCH East, the area is home to a number of potentially vulnerable people, with public housing, the Salvation Army addiction support centre, elderly residents and young families based in the area. A help centre has been set up and activists are out talking to the community." (Beyond Resistance blog)
5. Around New Zealand people have been offering homes for those left homeless, Fiji has offered free holidays, and tens of thousands of Red Cross volunteers and fundraisers have been working hard to support the people affected.
6. Beyond Resistance again “Innumerable deeds of mutual aid have taken place among neighbours, spontaneous soup kitchens and distribution centres have sprung up throughout the city, whilst surrounding towns amassed aid and support for the most vulnerable. As the initial hours turned into days, and days into weeks, thousands of people have come to realise: when things turn bad, we are left to fend for ourselves.
7. “Communities have grown through the crises, neighbourhoods have taken control of their situations, neighbours have become friends and the momentum continues. There is a palpable sense of anger and betrayal felt by many and it’s up to us community activists and organisers to help assist these loosely connected groups become a force to ensure that nothing like what we have all witnessed is allowed to happen again.”
8. The organisation of large sections of economy under private ownership to make private profit through the exploitation of workers as wage slaves is based on the ideological assertion that human society is naturally competitive, self-interested and driven only by material reward. The aftermath of natural disasters shows the absolute opposite. Humans are naturally co-operative, prepared to make incredible sacrifices and brave terrible dangers for complete strangers, and will work incredibly hard and make generous contributions for no material reward except to help other people.
9. As John Minto said, “Our economy has always been at odds with our natural instincts. However we have been sold the idea that our life choices arise from our role as consumers in the marketplace rather than from those of interconnected and co-dependent citizens. It’s a bad fit because at heart we deeply respect the lives of our fellow human beings.”
10. Socialism is the belief that the economy should be democratically controlled and owned by workers. We should not divide humanity into two rival classes. The shareholding capitalist class who live in mansions, own private jets and who holiday in Europe each year and for whom the quake is a brief interruption. And the working class who are being forced to by the Christchurch city council to pay full rent on their council flats even when they have no power, sewage or running water, who have lost jobs and incomes and will have to move to another city, who are always the last to get portaloos and help from central Government and who in 6 months will be lectured on going to find a job, get off the benefit and why their public services are being cut by some smarmy working group.
11. The class struggle between the shareholding class and the working class under capitalism in New Zealand is taking the shape of wage cuts, cuts to public services like early childhood education, raised GST, mass unemployment, welfare reform and the transfer of wealth from the public sector to the private sector through bailouts and privatisation.
12. This class struggle will go on until either workers consent to be absolute slaves or until the working class overthrows the capitalist class in a socialist revolution and gets rid of all classes and all property.
13. "Real socialism is based on a few straightforward principles. The world's vast resources should be used not to increase the riches of a few parasites, but to eradicate poverty and homelessness and every other form of scarcity forever. Rather than fighting wars that promote the power of the tiny class of rulers at the top, the working majority in society should cooperate in the project of creating a world of plenty. The important decisions shouldn't be left in the hands of people who are either rich or controlled by people who are rich, but should be made by everyone democratically. Instead of a system that crushes our hopes and dreams, we should live in a world where we control our own lives." (Alan Maass, Case for Socialism)
14. "A disaster is not a revolution, but it can reveal--in a flash that seems gone the moment after it arrives--the capacity we human beings have to reorder our lives in a new, cooperative way, leaving behind the degradation, oppression, violence and corruption that is our daily fare under capitalism." ( , Disaster socialism)
1. The Shock Doctrine is a thesis expanded by Naomi Klein in her book by the same name, that neo-liberal ideologues have long used the window of opportunity that economic crisis, natural disasters and other such events to initiate disaster capitalism – the rapid-fire corporate reengineering of societies still reeling from shock.
2. Klein examines the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans where public housing was destroyed and never rebuilt, Thailand after the Boxing day tsunami land that had once been the site of fishing villages was given to hotel corporations for redevelopment.
3. Klein asks whether disaster capitalism has succeded or failed. To quote one reviewer, “As Klein sees it, free market shock therapy may actually have succeeded in achieving its true objectives. Post-invasion Iraq may be "a ghoulish dystopia where going to a simple business meeting could get you lynched, burned alive or beheaded". Even so, Klein points out, Halliburton is making handsome profits - it has built the green zone as a corporate city-state, and taken on many of the traditional functions of the armed forces in Iraq. An entire society has been destroyed, but the corporations that operate in the ruins are doing rather well. Klein's message, then, seems to be that - at least in its own, profit-centred terms - disaster capitalism works.”
4. The IMF has sent a mission to assess New Zealand’s economy. The IMF has identified spending on payments to families, interest-free student loans and subsidized doctor visits as areas for possible review.
5. John Key is looking at changes to interest free students loans, working for families and further cut backs and privatisation.
6. Fran O’Sullivan, NZ Herald’s voice of the business community said, “It's now time for Len Brown to flick a few of the Auckland Council's gold-plated assets to fund his pet infrastructure project instead of asking for tax funds.” Even while the Australian private equity corporation that owns Tv3 gets a $43 million bail out. SCF got a $1.7 billion bail out nearly enough to fund a inner city rail loop, so why do we have to sell our assets to get the resources we need to sort out our congestion problems in Auckland.
7. The irrationality of the response to a natural as opposed to a manmade disaster is astounding. As Chris Trotter pointed out, “If you’ve lost your job because of the earthquake you’re immediately entitled to receive $500.00 per week (close to the minimum wage). But, if you’ve lost your job because your employer has just been bought out by a multinational company, you’re entitled (after a stand-down period of 12 weeks) to an unemployment benefit of just $294.00 per week (56 percent of the minimum wage). Nothing could better illustrate the punitive assumptions built into our welfare system.
8. The easiest and most effective way to beat the shock doctrine is mass confrontational direct action. In the wake of the Boxing Day tsunami, the Thai government tried to clear the beaches of local villagers to make way for new 5 star tourist resorts. Pretty soon, they were met by hundreds of villagers returning home, refusing to be evicted they reoccupied their homes on the coast. In New Orleans as the water receded back through the broken dykes after Hurricane Katrina, the Bush administration started its efforts to use the disaster to clear out the poor and working-class people who call New Orleans home. But determined residents returned home, cleaned up their neighbourhood and told FEMA they were staying put, since then there have been a number of confrontations, some defeats but also many successes for those struggling for their communities’ very survival, as big developers want to demolish the public housing. In Argentina in 2001, millions of people took the streets forced the government from office and forced a default on huge loans racked up by the dictatorship to the International Monetary Fund.
9. "What was special about the Thai villagers was that they approached all government promises with intense skepticism and refused to wait patiently in camps for an official reconstruction plan. Instead, within weeks, hundreds of villagers engaged in what they called land "reinvasions." They marched past the armed guards on the payroll of developers, tools in hand, and began marking off the sites where their old houses had been. In some cases, reconstruction began immediately. "I am willing to bet my life on this land, because it is ours," said Ratree Kongwatmai, who lost most of her family in the tsunami. The most daring reinvasions were performed by Thailand's indigenous fishing peoples called the Moken, or "sea gypsies." After centuries of disenfranchisement, the Moken had no illusions that a benevolent state would give them a decent piece of land in exchange for the coastal properties that had been seized. So, in one dramatic case, the residents of the Ban Tung Wah Village in the Phang Nga province "gathered themselves together and marched right back home, where they encircled their wrecked village with rope, in a symbolic gesture to mark their land ownership," explained a report by a Thai NGO. "With the entire community camping out there, it became difficult for the authorities to chase them away, especially given the intense media attention being focused on tsunami rehabilitation."" (Klein, The Shock Doctrine)
10. So finally to conclude I’d like to suggest a strategy that I feel would be useful. It’s based on the premise that you fight fire with fire. So I want to suggest that we need to “shock them back”. If Milton Friedman is right and only crises, actual or perceived produce real change, and that the ideas taken up are those lying around, then we need to start shocking back. Capitalism is continuous crisis; it is a million crises in a million places every day of the year. The task for socialists, for revolutionaries is that in every moment of crisis to mobilise, to organise and to take action in support of a programme that meets the critical needs of the planet and its population. The ongoing economic crisis, the crisis of unemployment, of global poverty, of climate change should be confronted with a socialist programme. The crisis of the Canterbury earthquake should be confronted by the left as a chance to demand jobs with justice-full employment and no poverty wages, a reversal of tax cuts for the rich, for the city’s finances to be put under the control of its residents through participatory budgeting and for the Government to urgently build new public housing and new social infrastructure in a city that has been ripped apart.
11. There are kilometres of streets in Christchurch where portable toilets have yet to arrive because the Council dished out portaloos based on who called their 0800 number first and most. Sausage sizzles became a staple diet, accompanied by a fine dusting of silt while food was left to rot and go off in corporate supermarkets. Cops beat an Asperger’s Syndrome man who stole two light bulbs while he was in police custody. The ongoing problems of capitalism and of state brutality and contempt of poor people have only been amplified by the earthquake. It is up to people to organise and confront the shock therapists before they attempt a pro-capitalist, anti-democratic makeover of New Zealand while the dust from the quake is still settling. (NZHerald online)