Munich American Peace Committee (MAPC)
Radio Lora, 14. Juli 2008
Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, 5.9.2007
Die kanadische Journalistin, Schriftstellerin und Filmemacherin Naomi Klein ist Trägerin zahlreicher Auszeichnungen und Ehrungen. Ihre Artikel erscheinen in allen großen und wichtigen Zeitungen der Welt. In dem Dokumentarfilm „The Take“ schildert sie die Wirtschaftskrise in Argentinien. Ihr Buch „No Logo“ ist weltweit ein Bestseller. Heute stellt Naomi Klein ihr neues Buch„Die Schock Strategie“ vor.
Die Begriffe „Schock-Strategie und „Katastrophen-Kapitalismus“ sind für mich Synonyme für den Neoliberalismus mit seiner Ideologie der Privatisierung und der Deregulierung zu Gunsten der Konzerne. In meinem Buch „The Shock Doctrine“ beschreibe ich, wie schamlos man sich der von Terrorattacken, Naturkatastrophen und Währungskrisen ausgelösten Schocks bedient, um den weltweit unpopulären Neoliberalismus durchzusetzen und sich dazu die lähmende Ohnmacht, die solchen Katastrophen folgt, zunutze macht.
Terrorattacken, Naturkatastrophen und Kriege hinterlassen schmerzhafte auch wirtschaftliche Traumen, die schnell zu einem Einfallstor für skrupellose Wirtschaftsreformen werden können, genauso wie Menschen unter Folter erzwungene Geständnisse ablegen oder ihre Überzeugungen verraten. Dieser Zusammenhang wurde mir während meines Aufenthaltes in Bagdad klar, als sich die Bush Regierung ihrer so genannten „Shock and Awe“ Strategie - einer Kombination aus militärischer und psychologischer Kriegsführung - brüstete. Dabei ging es nicht um den militärischen Sieg über Saddam Hussein, sondern um die Traumatisierung und Desorientierung der irakischen Zivilbevölkerung. Während Bagdad noch in Flammen stand, ließ der US Bevollmächtigte Paul Bremer nach jahrelangen, brutalen Sanktionen alle Handelsschranken niederreißen, ohne Rücksicht auf die Gesundheit und die Sicherheit der Bevölkerung. Es sollte ein beispielloser Wirtschaftsboom ausgelöst werden, der es dem Irak ermöglichen würde, seinen Wiederaufbau selbst zu finanzieren.
Jedoch, wer ein Land besetzen und wieder aufbauen will, darf nicht an Wunder glauben.
Weder die „Shock and Awe“ Strategie noch der Sturz Saddam Husseins brachten die Iraker dazu, sich manipulieren zu lassen, im Gegenteil, Widerstand flammte auf gegen die Besatzer und deren dreistes Wirtschaftsexperiment. Anfangs handelte es sich dabei fast nie um bewaffneten Widerstand, sondern um Protestaktionen. Hätten die Iraker die ihnen versprochene Demokratie bekommen, sie hätten sich allein mit demokratischen Mitteln gegen dieses ihnen aufoktroyierte Wirtschaftsprogramm gewährt.
Im Oktober 2004, nach einem heißen Sommer mit noch mehr Paul Bremer Gesetzen entstanden die berühmt berüchtigten Fotos von Abu Ghraib. Damals war der Krieg in die Gefängnisse verlagert worden. Donald Rumsfeld - der getreue Schüler des neoliberalen Wirtschaftsweisen Milton Friedman – führte den Irak Krieg wie einen Wal Mart. Er kürzte das Personal bis an die Schmerzgrenze. Als dann die Aufstände losbrachen, gab es nicht genügend Soldaten, um sie niederzuschlagen – stattdessen warf man die Widerständler einfach zu Tausenden ins Gefängnis und begann mit den systematischen Folterungen.
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Während der Weihnachtsfeiertage 2004 waren besonders viele arme Fischer Opfer des Tsunami geworden, und in Sri Lanka geschah das, was man schon im Irak beobachten konnte. Das Wasser hatte sich noch nicht ganz zurückgezogen, die Toten waren noch nicht geborgen, als die Weltbank, der Internationale Währungs-Fond, das US-Außenministerium und die Regierung von Sri Lanka sich anschickten, die Wasserwirtschaft zu privatisieren und Tausende der gerade dem Tode entronnenen, traumatisierten Fischer angeblich aus Sicherheitsgründen ins Landesinnere zu verfrachten - fernab von jeglicher Einkommensquelle. Die Küstengebiete dagegen wurden nicht zuletzt dank der Tsunami-Spendengelder an Großfischereiflotten und Investoren für Ferienanlagen verhökert. Die in Lager eingesperrten, streng bewachten Fischer gingen leer aus. So wurden die Opfer einer gewaltigen Naturkatastrophe auch noch die Opfer staatlicher Willkür und Gewalt.
2005, als in New Orleans die von den Neoliberalen vernachlässigten Dämme brachen, spielte sich das gleiche Drama ab. Es war nicht der Hurrikan Katrina, der die Katastrophe auslöste, es war die fehlende Infrastruktur, die eine geregelte, menschenwürdige Evakuierung ermöglicht hätte. Statt um Strände ging es hier um Bauland. Für die Bau-Lobby entpuppte sich die Tragödie zu einem Glücksfall. Man war die angeblich kriminellen Bewohner der Armenviertel los und konnte endlich chice Wohnblocks mit ein paar wenigen Alibi-Sozialwohnungen hochziehen. Das Krankenhaus, in dem man früher kostenlos behandelt wurde, hat bis heute seinen Betrieb nicht wieder aufgenommen. Öffentliche Schulen wurden samt und sonders in Privatschulen umgewandelt.
Der Katastrophen-Kapitalismus ist durchaus nichts Neues. In Chile, Argentinien und Uruguay hat man damit schon in den 70er Jahren Bekanntschaft machen müssen. Damals bedienten sich die Vertreter der Chicago-Schule militärischer Umstürze, um ihre Theorien in die Praxis umsetzen zu können. Tatsächlich hatten Milton Friedman und Friedrich von Hayek bereits in den 1950 Jahren damit begonnen, im Auftrag des US Außenministeriums die politische Landschaft in Lateinamerika zu verändern. Mit großzügigen Stipendien wurden anfangs chilenische, später auch andere lateinamerikanische Studenten nach Chicago eingeladen, wo man sie mit den Ideologien des freien Marktes vertraut machte und ihnen erklärte, dass nur eine Krise wirkliche Veränderungen ermögliche und dass zur Bewältigung dieser Krise den von Milton Friedman entwickelten Regeln zu folgen sei.
Eine nicht weniger menschenverachtende Idee geht auf die kanadische Universität McGill zurück. Hier entwickelte der amerikanische Psychiater Ewen Cameron mit Hilfe von Drogen, Elektroschocks und Isolationsfolter die berüchtigten so genannten „kreativen Vernehmungsmethoden“. Es dauerte nicht lange, bis sich die CIA für seine Experimente zu interessieren begann. Etwa zur gleichen Zeit fand Camerons Kollege, der Psychologe Donald Hebb, heraus, dass Studenten, deren Gehör-, Gesichts- und Tastsinn unter Isolationsbedingungen blockiert wurde, plötzlich zu halluzinieren begannen und Ansichten vertraten, die ihren vorhergehenden Einstellungen diametral widersprachen.
Seelen unter Schock und traumatisierte Länder, das waren die Curricula der von der CIA organisierten und subventionierten lateinamerikanischen Militär- und Polizeischulen.
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Am 11. September 1973 konnten alle diese Theorien in Chile erfolgreich umgesetzt werden. Noch bevor die Leiche von Salvador Allende identifiziert war, wurden im brennenden Präsidentenpalast fieberhaft Papiere vervielfältigt, die die Privatisierung des Sozial- und Bildungssystems verkündeten und eine Einheitssteuer von nur 15 % versprachen. Zur Durchsetzung dieses neoliberalen Wunschprogramms spielten sich - vor den Augen der Weltöffentlichkeit - in den Sportstadien Massenfolterungen ab und wurde die gesamte chilenische Bevölkerung in Todesangst und Schrecken versetzt.
Nur allzu gerne verschweigen die Anhänger des Reaganismus und des Thatcherismus der 80er Jahre diese blutigen Wurzeln.
1982 stand die Thatcher-Regierung mit ihren Privatisierungsplänen und dem Versuch, die Macht der Gewerkschaften zu brechen, kurz vor dem Scheitern und als Friedrich von Hayek von der chilenischen neoliberalen Revolution schwärmte, wehrte die Eiserne Lady ab, weil sie derartige Maßnahmen in einer Demokratie für undurchführbar hielt.
Nach dem Falklandkrieg und nach 910 Toten auf beiden Seiten stieg ihre Popularitätskurve wieder steil nach oben. Sie gewann die Wahlen und privatisierte alles, was nicht niet und nagelfest war: British Telecom, British Gas, British Airways, die British Airport Authority, British Steel und British Petroleum.
Ist das nicht der beste Beweis dafür, dass auch demokratische Regierungen unpopuläre Maßnahmen mit Hilfe von Krisen durchzusetzen?
Neoliberale Wirtschaftler behaupten nur allzu gerne, dass die Schocktherapie in Bolivien 1985 ausschließlich mit friedlichen und demokratischen Mitteln angewendet worden sei.
Dabei wird unterschlagen, dass sich Präsident Victor Paz Estenssoro nach seiner umstrittenen Wiederwahl fast über Nacht von einem entschiedenen Anhänger der Staatswirtschaft plötzlich zu einem devoten Schüler der Milton Friedman Schule entwickelt hatte. Als nach der Entlassung von 22 000 Bergarbeitern die Menschen auf die Straße gingen, verhängte er den Ausnahmezustand und ließ 200 Gewerkschaftsführer in ein Internierungslager verschleppen und erst nach Beendigung der wochenlangen Streiks wieder zurückbringen. All das verschweigen die Neoliberalen wenn sie den Sieg über die Armut und Hyperinflation bejubeln.
Der Hurrikan Mitch von 1998 ist ein weiteres Beispiel für den so genannten Katastrophen-Kapitalismus. Anstatt den traumatisierten Opfern in Nikaragua und Guatemala zu helfen, benützte man diese Naturkatastrophe zu einer Nacht- und Nebelaktion in Sachen Privatisierung, ganz so, als würde man bei einem Autounfall anstatt Hilfe zu leisten, dem wehrlosen Opfer die Brieftasche klauen. Das „Wall Street Journal“ bezeichnete diesen Coup damals als „Total-Ausverkauf nach dem Sturm“
Das waren die Anfänge einer gefährlichen Wirtschaftsideologie, für die Milton Friedman sogar mit dem Nobelpreis ausgezeichnet wurde. Heute können wir im Irak und in Afghanistan beobachten, wie mit Hilfe militärischer Gewalt und brutaler Folter eine Bresche für den Freien Markt geschlagen wird, genauso wie mit Jelzins Angriff auf das Parlament und dem Massaker auf dem Platz des Himmlischen Friedens.
Nach dem Untergang der Sowjetunion rechnete man weltweit mit den Gräueln des Kommunismus ab. Dieser Reinigungsprozess steht für die Verbrechen im Namen des Kapitalismus noch aus. Deshalb ist es an uns, die Wahrheit aufzudecken, denn nur dann sind wir gegen die Schock-Strategien gefeit.
The Shock Doctrine
Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec 5 September 2007
Naomi Klein of Canada is an award-winning journalist, author and filmmaker. Her articles appear in major newspapers and magazines all over the world. Her documentary film on the economic crisis in Argentina is "The Take." "No Logo," her book on globalization and marketing was an international bestseller. Her latest book is "The Shock Doctrine."
I'm going to be talking about disaster capitalism and something I'm calling the shock doctrine. I first want to start by defining these terms. What I mean by the shock doctrine and disaster capitalism, which are really two phrases for the same phenomenon, is the idea that in order to introduce a radical version of free market economics-and I think we know what we mean. In Latin America they call it neoliberalism or el modello, the Washington consensus. Those are all the names that have been used. It's a bit of a shape shifter, this ideology. But the triumvirate is privatization of pretty much everything in sight, deregulation in the interests of corporations, and cuts to essential government services, so cutting back those aspects of government that help people directly and intervening in the interests of corporations, protecting property rights, and so on. It's the building of a corporate world.
What I argue in the book is that these policies are so unpopular around the world that the ideologues of this movement have needed to harness great shocks-terrorist attacks, natural disasters, currency crises-in order to advance this ideology, taking advantage of the window of opportunity that opens up when there has been a kind of a body blow to a nation, when we lose our footing, when we lose our story, when we lose our sense of where we fit in history. Those moments of vulnerability can be opened up through a huge range of disasters. And it is in that moment when this radical version of capitalism advances. That's what I mean by the shock doctrine, that's what I mean by disaster capitalism.
The three forms of shock that I look at, and I look at the interrelationship among these three forms of shock, are the shocks to countries, the ones I've just described-the terrorist attacks, natural disasters, wars, these body blows; the second shock is the one that follows in the aftermath, economic shock therapy, as the economists call it, the extreme country makeovers that we see in the immediate aftermath of the first shock; the third shock I look at is the corporeal shock, the body shock of torture, and the way in which torture serves as an enforcement tool for economic shock therapy and also how torture is a kind of a metaphor for disaster capitalism.
Because, after all, what disaster capitalism does, what disaster capitalists do to countries reeling from shock is they take advantage of that window of opportunity when whole societies are not able to protect their interests. And what is it that prison interrogators do? They do that very same thing. They try to put a prisoner into a state of psychological shock and trauma. And in that window of opportunity that opens up when people are unmade, it is in that moment when they are least able to protect their interests and supposedly give the interrogator what they are looking for, whether it be a confession or information, a renunciation of their beliefs.
I became interested in this intersection of these three forms of shock when I was in Baghdad reporting on the occupation for Harpers magazine. I was there a year into the occupation, and I was studying and researching the campaign that the Bush administration proudly called Shock and Awe, which was a military strategy that was proudly as much about psychology as it was about militarism. If you read the manual for shock-and-awe warfare, the shock-and-awe manual talks about how this is a campaign of war that pits itself against the strategy that was used during the First Gulf War, where they say that the U.S. military targeted Saddam's military infrastructure. But now the shock-and-awe strategy targets the Iraqi population and tries to put the whole population into a state of shock. So I was looking at how this military strategy, which was designed as a psychological strategy of mass trauma, mass psychological disorientation, was harnessed by the economic shock therapists, with Paul Bremer at the helm.
Paul Bremer, the chief U.S. envoy, who rode into Iraq while the city was still burning, by his own accounts, and the first thing he does is declare it open for business and takes Iraq from the most closed economy in the world, because of the brutal sanctions regime of the 1990s, to suddenly becoming the widest open market anywhere in the world, where the borders are so open to trade that there aren't even any health and safety regulations for any products whatsoever. The idea was that this jolt of capitalism, of unregulated free markets, would create an economic boom the likes of which the world had never seen, and Iraq would essentially rebuild itself. That's what happens when you have countries occupied and reconstructed by people who don't believe in government. They believe in magic, actually.
I quote in the book the theory behind all of this shock. I quote Richard Armitage, former Undersecretary of State, who said, The working theory was that Iraqis would be so disoriented by the shock-and-awe campaign and by the collapse of Saddam "that they would be easily marshaled from point A to point B." There is a lot you can say about the Iraqi people, but they are not easy to marshal from point A to point B. This strategy really backfired, and Iraqis resisted. They resisted the occupation, they resisted this bald experiment in social and economic engineering, and the resistance began.
The resistance at first was not an armed resistance, except from very small parts of the country. It was protests. It was protests outside the Green Zone. And it became clear that if Iraqis had the democracy that was being promised to them, that they would use that democracy to oppose this economic program, because Iraqis are a nationalist people and they were not going to hand their country over that easily.
It was in this context, after that very first hot summer of country remaking under Paul Bremer, after all that wave of protests, that you started to see the third shock emerge in Iraq. It was October 2004, after Paul Bremer's summer of law making, that the images that have become so famous out of Abu Ghraib were taken. That's when the war really moved into the jails. Because as we know, Donald Rumsfeld, who is a disciple of Milton Friedman, decided to run the invasion a little bit like a Wal-Mart executive, and he cut and he cut and he cut, and there were very few soldiers on the ground. When the plan didn't go as anticipated and people resisted, they didn't have the ability to fight the war in the streets, so they moved the war into the jails, and they just scooped up thousands of people. That's when torture became systematic in Iraq.
So in Iraq we saw that triple-shock formula. I was in Argentina at the time. We were making the film The Take. It felt somehow that there was a connection between what was happening there and in Argentina, where neoliberalism was being rejected. This was 2003, after five governments had been overthrown, where there was a popular rejection of neoliberalism on the streets. I wrote at the time, maybe free trade lite, that had been enforced through arm twisting at trade summits and as conditions of the International Monetary Fund, was being upgraded to free trade heavy, where new markets are simply being seized on the battlefields of preemptive war. But at the time I thought this formula of disaster capitalism was perhaps unique to Iraq.
Then the tsunami happened, the Asian tsunami, just the day after Christmas in 2004. A few months later, I got an e-mail from a list serve I'm on from a man named Herman Kumara, who heads the association of small boat fishing people in Sri Lanka. Who were the casualties of that horrible natural disaster? They were overwhelmingly the people who live on the coast, the people who live precarious lives. Because, of course, it's always the people who lead the most precarious lives who are hit hardest by all forms of disaster. So the majority of the victims, around 90%, were small boat fishing people who had huts on the beach and who made their living off the sea.
What Herman Kumara, who represented the small boat fishing people in Sri Lanka, said in this e-mail-and this is three months after the tsunami-was, "We're being hit with a second tsunami." He said, "It's a second tsunami of corporate globalization and militarism." He described what was happening, and it sounded so much like Iraq. He said that the shock of the tsunami had been harnessed expertly by the World Bank, by the International Monetary Fund, by the U.S. State Department, in collaboration with the government that had been elected eight months before the tsunami on an anti-privatization, anti-neoliberalism platform. Four days after the tsunami hit, a bill opening the door for water privatization was put forward by that government while the bodies still hadn't been buried, taking advantage of that moment of trauma. Then he also described how the fishing people had been moved to inland camps, hundreds of thousands of people moved to inland camps, and this was in the name of safety and security. They said, "If another tsunami comes, you don't want to be hurt." But then the coasts were handed over to large resort developers and to the industrial fishing fleets. So it was shock therapy under the guise of reconstruction and aid, and it was victimizing the people in whose name billions of dollars of aid had been raised. And at the same time, those camps were starting to feel more like jails. He said they were patrolled by soldiers. So you had that third shock, which was the threat of state terror.
Then came New Orleans. Then came the levies breaking two years ago in New Orleans. And we saw that triple shock formula again. The first shock, of course, was the shock of the disaster itself, which was caused by neoliberalism, which was caused by the steady neglect of the public sphere. I just got back from New Orleans. Again and again you hear people say, "Please remember the disaster was not a Category 5 hurricane. We were never hit with a Category 5 hurricane. The disaster was the neglect of the levies and the neglect of the people, the fact that there wasn't the infrastructure to organize an evacuation. It was state failure. You can't blame nature for what happened in New Orleans."
I was there in the city just 10 days after the levies broke, and I was so struck because I had just come back from this research in Sri Lanka, where I had seen the coast being grabbed by hotel developers. I had just gotten back. Then Katrina hit, and we went to New Orleans. And we saw the same all over again. Only now it wasn't about the coastal land, it was about the housing projects in New Orleans. We were talking to lobbyists in Baton Rouge, who were saying things like, "Yes, it's a tragedy, but it's also an opportunity, because, you know, those housing projects were crime-ridden. And now we're going to convert them into mixed-use housing," which means condominiums and a few token apartments for the poor. What was left of the public sphere, the charity hospital, the public hospital in New Orleans that treats the people without insurance, still has not reopened; and the public school system in New Orleans was immediately converted into this living laboratory for a privatized charter school system. So that was the second shock, economic shock therapy after the first shock.
We see how deeply antidemocratic this disaster capitalism impulse is. Here you have New Orleans. And what's the opportunity? The opportunity is that the people aren't there. The poor people have been boarded on to buses and planes and spread all over the United States, separated from their families and loved ones, and not given a ticket home. So the opportunity that is opened up in these moments of crisis is the opportunity to make politics without people. What a wonderful thing that appears to be.
When I started this research, I thought that I was researching a new phenomenon, that this exploitation of disaster, this deliberate exploitation of disaster, as I said earlier, represented a ramping up of the neoliberal crusade. But I remember being in Argentina when the war in Iraq began and hearing from my friends in Buenos Aires, "This happened to us, this happened to us." I didn't understand the parallels that they saw, because, of course, this was a foreign invasion, this was Shock and Awe. I didn't at the time understand the depths of the observation that was being made about the parallels between the 1976 coup d'etat in Argentina.
But I think I have slowly begun to scratch the surface of understanding how there is this continuity between what happened in Latin America in the 1970s, particularly in the southern cone, when the southern cone-Chile, Argentina, Uruguay-was a laboratory for the Chicago boys, and how the shocks of those coups were used to lay the groundwork for the first experiment in Chicago School economics in the real world, when these ideas leapt from the textbook into the real world.
In the book I look at two laboratories for different kinds of shock. The first is the one I just mentioned, the University of Chicago in the 1950s, under the spell of a charismatic professor named Milton Friedman. Friedrich von Hayek was a visiting professor for a little while at the University of Chicago. And I look at something that Greg Grandin documents so well and so thoroughly in Empire's Workshop, which is the way in which the University of Chicago in the 1950s and 1960s was not just a place where Latin Americans happened to study. This was a deliberate program of the U.S. State Department, which was part of a campaign to change the ideological landscape of Latin America. Of course, now we have all kinds of declassified documents and interviews with key players where we understand that there was a great deal of concern at the State Department about the so-called pink economists of Latin America. So while the University of Chicago in this period, in the 1950s and 1960s was very marginal in the United States, and Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek were seen basically as sort of out-there wingnuts within the context of a period when Keynesianism ruled in the United States and the welfare state was still strong, it was understood that this little, sort of cultish environment at the University of Chicago would provide a very good learning environment to engage in an exercise in what some have called ideological transfer.
So a group of 100 privileged Chilean students-and it started with Chileans but it expanded from there-were brought to the University of Chicago on full scholarship, their tuition paid for by the State Department and also by the Ford Foundation, so that they could study with these free-market ideologues, who were marginal even in the United States and who Nixon didn't even listen to when he got into power. He said, "We're all Keynesians, now," didn't he? So this became the laboratory. I want to read you a quote from Milton Friedman. He said this, and this, to me, is the best articulation of what I mean by the shock doctrine. He said, "Only a crisis-actual or perceived-produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around." Then he said, "That, I believe, is our basic function." That was the function of the University of Chicago, to get those ideas ready for the next crisis.
So I also looked at-and I'm telling you this because of where we are, because we're in Montreal and we are near McGill University, one of the preeminent post-secondary institutions in this country and certainly the preeminent post-secondary education in this city-another crucial laboratory for these shock treatments that have shaped our modern history, McGill University. This was a different kind of shock, not economic shock but the shocks to bodies. In the same period that the State Department started funding this so-called Chile project at the University of Chicago, the CIA became interested in what they called creative interrogation techniques. They still call it creative interrogation techniques, as a matter of fact. This was the heyday of the infamous MKUltra experiments, MKUltra being the experiments into all kinds of drug use, sensory deprivation. Ground zero of these experiments was at McGill University. This is because there was a psychiatrist at McGill-he was an American citizen but he came to Canada and was head of psychiatry at McGill University-named Ewen Cameron.
Ewen Cameron's work caught the attention of the CIA. The reason why Ewen Cameron's work caught the attention of the CIA is because Ewen Cameron believed that if he used a method of just bombarding the minds of his psychiatric patients with everything he could think of, massive doses of electroshock, higher doses than anyone had ever attempted before-some patients were subjected to 600 jolts of electricity-experimental drugs, weird mixes of uppers and downers that would put patients to sleep for weeks, what he could do is depattern their personalities. He called it depatterning, but it was really about this quest for the blank slate. He believed that mental illness came later in life, that people learned patterns of mental illness, so he thought that what he could do was he could regress his patients back to the point when they were a fresh, newborn baby. And he deliberately erased their memories, he deliberately reduced them to a state-he thought the optimal state was when they lost some language, when they didn't know whether they were married or not, when they became incontinent, when they started to suck their thumbs and started to think that their doctors were their parents. That was his goal. And then he started repatterning them, remaking them by playing tape-recorded messages over and over and over again. So the CIA started funding Ewen Cameron because they saw in his research a way of unmaking people.
There was another scholar at McGill, the head of the psychology department, Donald Hebb, who was doing research into sensory deprivation. He took McGill students and put them into extreme sensory-deprivation situations where he blocked their ears, their eyes, their sense of touch. And he found that after a couple of days they started hallucinating and they became very receptive to ideas that they had rejected earlier.
So in 1963-and we didn't know this at the time because it was classified, but it's since been declassified-the CIA published a manual called the Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation. It is an interrogation handbook for so-called resistant sources. The handbook makes specific reference to the McGill experiments. Essentially what the Kubark manual is-and Alfred McCoy, the wonderful historian at the University of Wisconsin, in his book A Question of Torture has really laid all of this out-is a new method of breaking people's personalities, bending people to your will. It's the use of extreme sensory deprivation followed by sensory overload. This method was field-tested, was taught in the field, through police training programs, and it was also taught at the School of the Americas, and it was also taught through the CIA. A generation of Latin America police and soldiers were trained in these methods of deliberately inducing a state of shock in prisoners and using this window of opportunity in order to bend people to their will.
So you have these two twin shock labs, one at the University of Chicago, which is focused on shocking economies, and one at McGill University, which is focused on shocking minds. I was struck by the similarities between the thinking in both of these laboratories, that in both there was this quest for the blank slate, this fantasy that you could wipe out minds and rebuild people. At the University of Chicago they were dreaming of blank-slate countries where they could build an idealized, fantasy version of capitalism. So you had these two shock labs and you had these trained economists and you had these trained soldiers and police. They really were lying in wait. They were waiting for their moment.
And their moment came. Their moment came on September 11, 1973. This is a room filled with Latin American scholars, and I know you know this history well. But I think we haven't paid enough attention to this intersection of the three forms of shock. There was the shock of the coup, but remembering that on the night of the coup the Chicago boys were busy mimeographing a document which was essentially a Spanish version of Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom. It was known in Chile as "the brick," because it was so thick. All night, as La Moneda, the presidential palace in Santiago, burned, their mimeograph machines churned away. And they produced this document, which reads in an odd way like George W. Bush's 2000 election platform. What does it talk about? Privatizing Social Security, charter schools, a 15% flat tax. It's the wish list, which to this day has not been imposed fully in the United States but was imposed in Chile in the aftermath of that shock. Of course, that would have been absolutely impossible without the third shock, the shock of torture, the shock of terror and the display of terror, the theater of terror in the stadiums, the warning of terror to the whole society.
We rarely hear about modern capitalism within the context of that ugly chapter of our collective history. Instead, when we hear about the free-market crusade-and we heard this a lot when Milton Friedman died in 2006-it's usually fright-dated, isn't it? It's sort of like the 1970s become a lost decade, and they start in around 1982 with Thatcher and Reagan. That's supposedly when these free-market policies, Reaganism and Thatcherism, began their global crusade. The bloody roots of the neoliberal project have largely been erased from the official story.
One of the things that I think it is important to look at again is even those places where the claim is that these policies were imposed peacefully, because I think if we look more closely at them, we see that the harnessing of shock, the harnessing of various states of shock and states of exception, was crucial even in those circumstances when we've all largely accepted the idea that it was a peaceful process. A good example of this is Thatcher's Britain. Thatcher's Britain is often held up as the example of, Look, these policies are compatible with an advanced Western democracy.
Let's take another look at that. In 1982, Thatcher had been in power for a few years, and her regime was in trouble. She had tried to break the coalminers' union and had failed. She had wanted to privatize the state companies, but there had been too much opposition. Her government-this is after three years in office, in 1982-was at 18% in the polls. That makes George W. Bush look good. Her own approval ratings were at 25%, which were the lowest ratings in the history of British polling. Thatcherism was about to come to a rather inglorious end.
It was at that point, interestingly, that Friedrich von Hayek wrote Margaret Thatcher a letter. He had just come back from Chile. He had made a lot of trips to Chile. Hayek comes back from Chile, and he's kind of like a kid who has just come back from Disneyland. He thinks it is the greatest thing he's ever seen. He's like one of these kids who wants to wear the Mickey Mouse ears to school the next day. So he writes to Thatcher and he says-I'm paraphrasing here-You've got to do this. You've got to check this out. They've really done it in Chile. He was really Thatcher's intellectual guru, and he was advising her very explicitly to adopt the Chile model in Britain.
And Thatcher rather snippily writes back, and I'll read you from the letter-this is 1982- "I was aware of the remarkable success of the Chilean economy. The progression from Allende's socialism to the free enterprise capitalist economy of the 1980s is a striking example of economic reform from which we can all learn many lessons. However, I am sure you will agree," says the woman who is at 25% in the polls, "that, in Britain, with our democratic institutions and the need for a high degree of consent, some of the measures adopted in Chile are quite unacceptable." So there you have it from the Iron Lady herself. The neoliberal revolution just can't be pulled off in a democracy, not under normal circumstances.
But it's once again Latin America that comes in to save the day. Because Margaret Thatcher needed a crisis, and that crisis came when the junta in Argentina decided to claim the Malvinas, known in Britain as the Falklands. Thatcher had really neglected the Falklands, and there was good reason, actually, to believe that she was no longer interested in it. She cut spending on the navy and had sent, actually, all kinds of signals that made it clear that she was not that interested and maybe Jorge Luis Borges was right, this was just a couple of bald men fighting over a comb. But I think Thatcher recognized that she had just been handed the crisis that she needed, and she went into full Churchillian battle mode for the Falkland Islands. It was a last blast for British Empire.
Suddenly, she went from 25% in the polls to 59%, after she brought that victory home. Nine hundred ten people were killed in the Falklands. That's the combined death toll on both sides. Thatcher rode the momentum from that military victory to launch the very procorporate revolution that she had told Hayek was quite unacceptable a year earlier. What she did is she very expertly translated the war that she had just waged against Argentina into a war at home against the unions. She said that "we had to fight the enemy without in the Falklands and now we have to fight the enemy within, which is much more difficult but just as dangerous to liberty." She was referring to coalminers. And she did fight that so-called enemy within, and she fought it with force. It was a tremendous operation of MI5, the secret police in Britain. Extraordinary levels of surveillance of the union leadership and extraordinary levels of overt repression on the front lines of that struggle. There were thousands of injuries. She then went on to win the next election. And she privatized pretty much everything she could at the time: British Telecom, British Gas, British Airways, the British Airport Authority, British Steel, sold off shares in British Petroleum. This was the first mass privatization in a Western democracy.
I think that the real lesson of Thatcherism is not that neoliberalism was chosen democratically, transcending the need for shock that was so clear in the 1970s in Latin America. The real lesson that Thatcher discovered is that any crisis can create the opportunity to push through unpopular policies that wouldn't be accepted under normal circumstances. That was the lesson.
When neoliberal economists debate people like me, they often hold up Bolivia as an example disproving the claim that this ideology requires force, requires shock. You often hear, Look at Bolivia in 1985. This was a country in hyperinflation. There was a very ambitious shock therapy program that was imposed, but it was imposed in the context of a democracy and it was imposed peacefully. I think this does require another look at how we are defining peacefully and how we are defining democracy.
It was a sort of kinder, gentler form of shock therapy, and it was not imposed by the gruff Milton Friedman. It was imposed by Jeffrey Sachs at age 30, or prescribed, at least, by Jeffrey Sachs, who was much more likable. I think he was really the only person in some ways who could have helped the transition from the dictatorship era to the democratic era for this economic ideology. I hasten to add that I do believe that Jeffrey Sachs really is a different breed from the Chicago boys, than Milton Friedman. I see him in a completely different category in the sense that I actually do believe that he believes that he is helping. But I think the record is quite devastating in Bolivia, Poland, Russia, and so on. I'll leave it there.
There was a democracy in Bolivia in 1985. There had just been elections, historic elections. They were very contested elections. It wasn't entirely clear who had one. But Victor Paz Estenssoro was appointed president. Victor Paz Estenssoro had run on an explicitly nationalist platform. And, of course, Bolivians thought that they knew what they were getting because he had been their president before and he was really the godfather of economic nationalism in that country, who had nationalized the mines and so on. So even though the campaign had been a little bit vague, it was certainly seen as a victory of sorts for economic nationalism in 1985.
Even though this did take place in the immediate aftermath of elections, I think that if we look at what actually happened, it was anything but democratic. Four days after being named president, Estenssoro did something quite extraordinary: he struck an emergency economic team. He didn't even tell his own cabinet that he had done this, that the team even existed. The team, which had 10 members, met for 17 straight days in the home of Gonzales Sanchez de Lozada, Goni's house. The descriptions of these meetings by people who were part of them say that they were clandestine, that people didn't even know where they were going, they didn't know what was happening. They came up with an extraordinary document that bears a lot of resemblance to the document that the Chicago boys in Chile photocopied that night. It was a decree which had 220 laws within it. Once again, this strategy of all at once, economic shock therapy, extreme country makeover. It was the Bolivian version of "the brick."
There are a few things that are interesting about this document. One is that the Bolivians who proposed the plan, this radical shock therapy plan, were aware of how shocking it would be to the country. I want to quote Bolivia's planning minister, who was part of this clandestine group that came up with this decree. Actually, I don't think this quote has ever been translated into English before. He says, "We have to be like the pilot of Hiroshima. When he dropped the atomic bomb, he didn't know what he was doing. But when he saw the smoke, he said 'Oops, sorry.' And that's exactly what we have to do: launch the measures and then say, 'Oops, sorry.'" That's economic shock therapy for you. This really was like a bomb. The state mining corporation alone, the same one Paz Estenssoro had nationalized in the 1950s, was downsized from 28,000 employees to 6,000 employees.
When you launch an economic shock therapy program like this, obviously, if it is a democracy, people will react. And they did react. They reacted by staging massive strikes in the streets. Tens of thousands took to the streets. And, of course, most of the opposition came from the unions. What the government did in response to this mobilization was declare not one but two states of siege, two consecutive states of siege, and not once but twice, in order to suppress mobilizations in the street. The union leadership, 200 union leaders, were rounded up, boarded onto planes and taken to internment camps, and held in the Amazon for weeks, until their membership agreed to call off the strikes.
So it's quite extraordinary. I read Jeffrey Sachs's account of what happened in Bolivia in this period. He has a whole chapter on the success of Bolivia in his book The End of Poverty. I bring this up because this is where the official history is being told, in forums like this. He has a whole chapter on how they slayed hyperinflation in Bolivia, which they did do for a time. And he holds it up as an example of the first time these radical economic policies were imposed in the context of a democracy. What I found just extraordinary is in this account, an entire chapter in the book about this transition, he didn't mention the states of siege, not once. It is not mentioned that the government had to declare a state of siege, with curfews, where people had to get special permission to travel in the country, where radio stations were raided. It's just not part of the history. And the internment and the rounding up of the union leadership, it's not part of the history. It's not even mentioned once. So the official story becomes, Bolivia proves that it's possible to impose these policies democratically.
Because we're running behind schedule, I want to jump ahead to the conclusion. The roots of what we're seeing now and the types of disaster capitalism that I was describing earlier, with the harnessing of natural disasters to introduce rapid-fire privatization, that happened in 1998 after Hurricane Mitch. I think we need to think about what's going on right now in Central America with Hurricane Felix and realizing that this tragedy, yet another tragedy, will very likely, if we aren't ready, be harnessed in the same way by international lenders to push through privatization policies when people are least able to resist. To me, this is the moral equivalent of stopping by a car accident scene and, instead of helping, picking someone's pocket, to take advantage of a moment of trauma like this. That is exactly what happened after Hurricane Mitch. In the two months post-Mitch, Guatemala announced plans to sell off its phone system, Nicaragua did the same, the electricity company was also privatized, the petroleum sector. The Wall Street Journal ran an article called "The Speed Sell-Off after the Storm." That was a pretty prime example of disaster capitalism.
Why does this matter? It matters because it's still happening. And this ability to cleanse the violence, to cleanse the shock, to cleanse the repression that has been required to impose this model is extraordinarily dangerous. The Chicago boys' first experiment in Chile should have served as a warning for humanity that theirs is a dangerous idea that can only be imposed under extraordinarily violent circumstances. Instead, Milton Friedman won the Nobel Prize. By failing to hold the ideology accountable for the crimes committed in its first laboratory, this subculture of unrepentant ideologues was given immunity, freed to scour the globe for the next conquest.
This matters because we are once again, living in an era of corporatist massacres, with countries like Iraq and Afghanistan suffering tremendous military violence alongside attempts to remake them into model free-market economies. Disappearances and torture are back with a vengeance. And yet the goals of building these idealized free-market-model states and the need for such brutality is still treated as if there is no connection between these two projects.
After Milton Friedman died, there was a torrent of words written in eulogy, but the role of shocks and crisis to advance his world view barely received a mention. Instead, his death provided an occasion for a retelling of the official story of how his brand of radical capitalism became government orthodoxy in almost every corner of the globe. It's a fairy-tale version of history, scrubbed clean of all the violence, whether it was Yeltzen's attack on parliament in 1993 or Deng Xiaoping's attacks on the students and labor demonstrators in Tiananmen Square, which paved the way for the transition of China into the export-processing zone for the world. This fairy-tale version of history has been scrubbed clean of the violence and the coercion that has been so intimately entwined with the crusade. It is far past time for this to change.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, there has been a powerful collective reckoning with the great crimes committed in the name of communism. This has been a healthy process for the left. It's crucial that we understand that ideologies that require violence are dangerous. We must confront this history, however painful. But what of the contemporary crusade to liberate world markets? The coups, wars, and slaughters to install and maintain procorporate regimes have never been treated as capitalist crimes. If the most committed opponents of this economic model are systematically eliminated, whether in Argentina in the 1970s or Iraq today, that suppression is explained away as part of a dirty fight against communism then or terrorism now, almost never as a fight for the advancement of pure capitalism.
My talk today has only scratched the surface of the part that Latin America has played in this untold history of the so-called free market. But I want to urge all of you-and I know so many of you are doing this already-to keep filling those gaps, to keep fighting against the sanitization of history. And I think that you also know that knowing history, having a narrative to hold on to to keep us sane and oriented, is the very best form of shock resistance. Thank you.
The question had to do with resistance.
I mentioned I was in New Orleans recently. The reason why I went there, there was an extraordinary exchange going on between survivors of the Asian tsunami in India, people from Tamil Nadu, which was hit very hard, who traveled to New Orleans to meet with Katrina survivors. They were trading stories and they were trading strategies for dealing with disaster capitalism. There was an organizer based in New Orleans at this meeting named Saket Soni. He is one of the people working at the Workers' Center for Racial Justice in New Orleans, which is trying to organize the mostly Latin American workers who have come to New Orleans to find work. And there is a lot of tension between African American residents of New Orleans and the migrant workers, who they see as taking their jobs, and so on.
Saket Soni said, "They have disaster capitalism. We need disaster collectivism," which I thought was a great phrase. And I do feel that I have seen some examples of disaster collectivism in action. The film The Take is about the occupied factory movement in Argentina. Of course, it spread beyond Argentina. You have just an explosion of the cooperative economy in Venezuela, explosion because, unlike in Argentina, where there is really no state support or, at times, state repression of these attempts to take what has been discarded and left behind by capital in that country, the slow-motion disaster that is neoliberalism. In the rubble of neoliberalism, in the abandoned factories that have been boarded up, people moving in and trying to put those factories back to work often meet with state repression. That's where this issue of resistance comes in, because that is a form of peaceful resistance that often becomes violent because of the violence of the state against these alternatives. Venezuela is a different situation because you have a state government that has decided to support the cooperative economy as an alternative to neoliberalism. So it's been able to expand exponentially, and actually be a significant part of the economy, unlike in Argentina, where we're talking about 200 workplaces.
I think that we are seeing glimpses. The last chapter of the book, the conclusion of the book, I call "Starting from Scrap," because I see this ethos really as the antithesis of the ethos of the blank-slaters, who want to wipe everything clean and they want everything shiny and new. Whether it's the MST, Landless People's Movement, taking fallow land that has been left abandoned and putting that land back to work through cooperative farming or the co-ops in the occupied factories, you have this same ethos of just taking what has been left behind, the rusty tools, whatever hasn't been looted and stolen and taken, and whoever is left behind starting not from scratch but from scrap.
I always think of something that William Gibson, the science fiction writer, said once. He said, "There are two kinds of science fiction writers: there are the people who think that the world is going to be shiny and new, and there is the rest of us, who know that it's going to be rusty, that it's going to be what's been left behind by capital." We know what it looks like when capital abandons industrial sectors: the ghost towns around the world, the rusty leftovers of capitalism. What we're starting to see now are the moldy leftovers of capitalism in places that have been hit by this collision between the war on the state, the neoliberal war on the bones of the state, the attack on big government. The bones of our states are getting really brittle-the bridges, the levies, the roads. And when those brittle bones of the state are met with heavy weather, and increasingly heavy weather, then you start to see situations like we saw in New Orleans.
So I think that, yes, these are glimpses of the future, disaster collectivism. I just think these are hints of a way of building another society in the rubble that is left behind. I say this because I think that the left can be guilty of longing for crisis precisely for the same reason the right does-this idea of just blasting people out of the way and some idea that you can finally get your way. And when we look at the living experiments, where people are building the experiments that we so admire, people are at the very center, as opposed to just blasting people out of the way. It's the right to a life of dignity, a right to land, a right to work that is at the very center of these movements that we're talking about. This, to me, points the way forward.
There is also some hope in the fact that shock is a temporary state by its very nature. I think Latin America is starting to point the way towards alternatives, in some ways because this is where the experiment began. In the book I quote the Argentine investigative journalist, Rodolfo Walsh, where he predicted that it would take 20 to 30 years before the terror that was imposed under the dictatorship would wear off and people would regain their confidence once again. You mentioned the awe. I think there is awe, but I think there is also a kind of a terror hangover in countries that have experienced the state terror in recent memory. It doesn't just lift overnight, just because there have been elections. It takes time. But shock does eventually wear off.
One of the moments that I always remember about the importance of understanding that history is what happened in Argentina in 2001, on December 19, 2001, when there was a crisis, a severe economic shock. People were locked out of their bank accounts, there was looting in the suburbs. The president, Fernando de la Rúa, goes on television on December 19, 2001, declares a state of siege, and says, The country is in danger, bad people are taking over. Stay in your homes. He imposes a curfew. And while he's talking, people start hearing pots and pans in the streets, and people are pouring out of their houses and rejecting the state of siege, rejecting this attempt to exploit the crisis.
At that time there were plans for the IMF to use that crisis to impose even more drastic austerity measures. People rejected it. If you ask them why, they say, "Because it reminded us of something. It reminded us of the way in which we were complicit with the loss of our rights in 1976." So there were those historical echoes. This was a country, imperfect as the process was, that had gone through that hard work of looking at its own history, enough to be able to identify the patterns. That's why I think it's so important.
Debt is an important point. We understand debt as a discipline for entire countries, as a disciplining force. We know how the IMF uses debt to enforce policies and to enforce obedience. But, of course, it's also true on an individual level that debt is a tremendous enforcer of these policies.
Other AR Naomi Klein programs -
Naomi Klein - Economic Warfare: From Argentina to Iraq
Naomi Klein - No Logo
Naomi Klein - Debacle in Iraq
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