At the 2017 People’s Summit, Naomi Klein explains why fighting Trump requires political imagination
NINA TURNER, Speech at the 2017 People’s Summit: I’m mad that we got to beg people in power to know that the wages of everyday people are not keeping up with inflation! I’m mad as hell that our young people have to graduate with a degree in one hand and debt in the other, over a trillion dollars worth of debt! I’m made as hell that we’ve got to beg people to understand that we must protect Mother Earth to have anything! Oh yeah, I’m mad. I’m mad that my sisters and brothers on the south side of Chicago with a Democrat in power to say “ouch” if it hurts. That mommas, and daddies and grand-mommas have to worry about whether or not their babies can walk the streets in America. Oh yeah, I’m mad about a whole lot of stuff. But I want us to channel this anger, this is important. Channel the anger and the passion that we have into action. NINA TURNER: Oh my God. I am here in Chicago; Chi-Town, with the amazing Naomi Klein. We are at the People’s Summit, 2017. What brings you to the People’s Summit this year? NAOMI KLEIN: Well, I think we need spaces to strategize, so badly. Right? I mean, we are in this incredible moment where we now know that a transformative, progressive, radical, revolutionary, whatever you want to call it, political agenda, could actually achieve power. NINA TURNER: Now, why do you call it an extraordinary moment? Because some people would say, “Oh my God! Life is over as I know it!” Because a certain someone made it to the White House. NAOMI KLEIN: Right. Well, it’s both things. Right? The thing about the People’s Summit, because in some ways this is, well, it’s the house that the nurses built, but it’s also the house that Bernie built. There’s so many people here with their old Bernie swag, wearing it. It’s the tension of this moment; that this current system that we’re in has reached crisis levels on so many fronts. Inequality is at crisis levels, systemic racism, gender exclusion and misogyny, climate change. NINA TURNER: But did we just get there, Naomi? I mean, weren’t we at crisis level four years ago, eight years ago, 50 years ago? NAOMI KLEIN: This has been a process. NINA TURNER: Okay. NAOMI KLEIN: But I think that Trump in the White House has just … The system’s gone completely mad. You know? The mask is off. That’s how I would put it. Right? That this has been a long time coming. The building blocks for this were laid, not just by the Republicans, but also by the democrats. This is kind of a culmination. The mask is off. There’s no intermediary. It’s a corporate coup, is the way I see this. Right? There’s no longer any pretext that it’s anything but what it is; this cabinet of millionaires and billionaires, and just kind of the worst that this culture can produce is in charge. NINA TURNER: Yeah, is there. But some- NAOMI KLEIN: But on the other hand, there is the fact that 13 million people voted for Bernie Sanders, that he carried more than 20 states, that in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn just defied all the pundits; ran on this hopeful ideas-based campaign; bold policies at the center; led with ideas, not personality; put the people front and center, and did so much better than anybody could have predicted. Right? The results of that election are still very much in flux in terms of what it’s actually going to mean in terms of government. So it’s a moment that is filled with peril, and filled with possibility. NINA TURNER: So could we say there’s promise in the problem? NAOMI KLEIN: I mean, I would say it’s kind of now or never. I mean, for me, I’m so immersed in the climate issue, in the climate clock, that I really do feel like it’s almost like one of these superhero moments where the asteroid is hurling towards earth, and it’s like, we either save this at the very last second … And now it’s not just like, stop it, it’s like, turn it around. Right? NINA TURNER: Absolutely. NAOMI KLEIN: Because, just stopping it isn’t enough. This is why I think it’s so important that at the People’s Summit, we’re interrogating this idea of just resistance. Because, as you say, even if we were to beat back everyone of the blows that are coming now under Trump, which we won’t, realistically, then all we would be is exactly where we were before Trump arrived, and that was a crisis on multiple different things. Right? NINA TURNER: That’s right. Yes. NAOMI KLEIN: So we have to do something different and complicated, which is the no and the yes at the same time; defense/offense at the same time. NINA TURNER: All of it. NAOMI KLEIN: We cannot just be standing where we were before Trump. NINA TURNER: So you wrote your new book, No Is Not Enough, which is a really big deal. I’m holding it in my hand right now. NAOMI KLEIN: Thank you for that, Nina. NINA TURNER: No Is Not Enough! NAOMI KLEIN: It isn’t. NINA TURNER: Talk and share with the Real News viewers why you felt that you had to express that, especially in the era of Trump. NAOMI KLEIN: I make it really clear, right on the cover. NINA TURNER: No Is Not Enough. NAOMI KLEIN: It’s not enough. NINA TURNER: Not enough, yeah. NAOMI KLEIN: Well, honestly, it was a hard one. It should be obvious, but it came out of a book that I published 10 years ago called The Shock Doctrine, which was trying to expose how, in the midst of crisis, that’s the moment when we lose the most, traditionally. Right? The ultimate example of this is Hurricane Katrina. Right? The city’s still partially underwater, and what is happening? There’s a meeting in Washington at the Heritage Foundation. A Republican study group has convened all the right-wing think tanks, and all the most right-wing lawmakers, and they come up with a list; their wishlist, of what they call free market solutions to Hurricane Katrina: privatize the school system, get rid of public housing, tax free, free enterprise zone, just use this tragedy; the fact that the residents of that city have been boarded at gunpoint and scattered throughout, given one-way tickets. I mean, I don’t need to tell you the story. Right? NINA TURNER: Devastated. Yeah. NAOMI KLEIN: And to say, “Well, this is a good time to privatize the school system.” Right? When I wrote The Shock Doctrine, I gave many examples of how this had happened; how shock and crisis, for four decades, had been the midwife; although it’s not fair to midwives, who I have a great amount of respect for. NINA TURNER: Yes. NAOMI KLEIN: The shocks have been these moments when we’ve lost the most, and this incredibly anti-democratic tactic has been used. I thought if people understood this; that if we just called it out, if we just said no, then we’d be able to stop it. But when the 2008 financial crisis happened, we did say no. All around the world we said no, and we called it out, and we said, “We won’t pay for your crisis.” But the fact is, this brutal austerity- NINA TURNER: But we did pay for it. NAOMI KLEIN: We did. NINA TURNER: We did pay for it. NAOMI KLEIN: And this brutal austerity agenda still advanced. And it’s because, if there isn’t an alternative that is on the table, and if we can’t believe in it ourselves with all of our hearts, as much as we believe in rejecting their agenda, how do we expect anybody else to believe. Right? NINA TURNER: So you’re really calling upon people with this, No Is Not Enough, that they must act; that they must be actively engaged. NAOMI KLEIN: And [proposed 00:07:43]. NINA TURNER: Because in the same way that you gave examples of how some Republicans were able to use the crisis of Katrina for the Gulf states; particularly to push out people. If we had policy makers in office that had a different vision, you could have been writing about the alternative; that in other words, sometimes in crisis, great things can happen- NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah, absolutely. NINA TURNER: If you have the right leadership in place. NAOMI KLEIN: It’s that push and pull between the great leadership in place, and the social movements with the vision, with the courage to put pressure on those leaders. One of the great tragedies, to me, is 2009. Obama had the electoral mandate. NINA TURNER: He did. NAOMI KLEIN: More than the electoral mandate, the had three of the most powerful economic engines in his hands: the banks, the car companies, and he had an $800 billion stimulus bill to write. But the constraints of neo-liberalism carried the day. Right? They just wanted to get rid of the auto companies. They didn’t want to think, “Well, maybe they should be making public transit, or electric cars. If they’ve failed, maybe we could change them.” Right? NINA TURNER: Rebuild our infrastructure. NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. NINA TURNER: I mean, so many places in the United States, we don’t have good rail systems; less no high-speed rail. And our sisters and brothers all over the world; places like China. I mean this is, I hate to use the word foreign, but it’s just unthinkable that a nation like the United States of America would not make more investment in rail systems and public transportation. NAOMI KLEIN: And this is huge job creation. NINA TURNER: Yes it is. And it protect the environment. Which brings me back to this issue that you are really, really passionate about. Here at the People’s Summit we’re talking about all kinds of things. Some people are here because they care about income and wealth inequality. Some people are here because they care about immigration reform, voting rights. I mean, you name it, people are here. But as I was talking to one of our dear friends, Paul Jay, who believes, I think, in the same way that you do that, if we don’t tackle what is happening to Mother Earth, there is nothing else left for us to fight for. What would be your recommendations for movements like the People’s Summit? How do we make the environment, the umbrella, if you will, or the foundation point by which we build on every other thing? NAOMI KLEIN: Well, the fact is, it is. Right? It just is. Like, this is our infrastructure. We talk about roads and bridges, but our infrastructure is also the atmosphere, our water, our soil. This is the infrastructure that holds us; our living infrastructure. Right? NINA TURNER: Yeah. That’s a great way to put it. NAOMI KLEIN: So we are in a big tent, if you will. It’s just a question of whether we notice it. Right? The tent is the atmosphere. NINA TURNER: Well, even Mother Earth is not … I mean, why aren’t people just outraged; just running in the streets about the environment? NAOMI KLEIN: Well part of this is this [crosstalk 00:10:50] separation. I mean, this is why I say this. It’s like, it’s not about, “How do we do it?” It’s, “How do we notice it?” Because, this is an illusion that we are apart; that somehow we are safe within this bubble of air conditioning, and the water that magically appears, and the lights that magically turn on. I mean, all of it is dependent on living systems, and if we do it right, we can be protecting cycles every generation. If we do it wrong, then we are killing those cycles. Right? So we’re doing it wrong. But the point of saying that it’s our infrastructure means that, I’ve always really disliked this argument of, like, first we’ll save the earth because it’s the most pressing issue, and if we don’t save the planet, then we won’t be able to fight poverty and we won’t be able to fight racism. Every one of these crisis are a five-alarm fire. For the people in the front lines, you can’t say, “Well, first we’ll save the plant, and then we’ll worry about putting food on the table, or stopping police violence.” That’s madness. That’s how you build a very homogenous movement. Right? The task is, how do we design and fight for integrated policies and solutions so it is possible to change our energy system so that the people who are most economically excluded, whose kids have the highest asthma rate, who are dealing with cancer clusters because their bodies have borne the toxic burden of the addition to fossil fuel, are first in line to own and control their own clean energy cooperatives. Right? So this is kind of energy reparations. It’s energy democracy. So you have a fair economy, but you bake the justice in. Right? NINA TURNER: Yeah, so we can do it all. NAOMI KLEIN: We can do it all, and this is what really excites me. I think that there’s been some wonderful talk about intersectionality and silo busting. I think everybody’s there; certainly at this summit here, understanding that. But sometimes I feel like we think that it’s just a question of making a long list where we just check off all the issues. NINA TURNER: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I feel that way. NAOMI KLEIN: It’s really about another story. Right? And coming up with these solutions that solve multiple problems. NINA TURNER: We roll into each other, to me. Like, it’s a never-ending … But what are your thoughts about how … Do you believe that the movement needs a structure, or a center, if you will, to be able to take this from movement to planning to actually winning? And what I mean, “winning”, not just electorally, but that’s part of it, because you’ve got to have people in office who will push policies that says that the people in Flint deserve clean water. You know, I just interviewed a young lady that is an activist from West Virginia, and she was sharing that some citizens in some parts of West Virginia, they don’t have clean water either. But to have all of these activists here telling their stories, and also trying to learn from each other, and then take all of that back home. Do you believe that the movement needs a structure or center to be stronger? NAOMI KLEIN: It needs a structure. I mean, center is a complicated word, but I think it needs multiple centers. But I think it needs a structure and I think people need to see the plan. You know? I think that we need … I mean, my hope, what I would love to see come out of this process, and all of this sort of social movement surge in this moment, is a movement towards democratically creating people’s platforms that any politician that wanted the support of this amazing movement of movements would have to follow. Right? I want the people to lead. I think there needs to be mechanisms to hold any politician that comes along and says, “Well, I’m the savior. I’m the progressive candidate in this moment.” What’s the mechanism? I mean, the Tea Party had a mechanism. NINA TURNER: They did. And they challenged the elites within that party, and they said, “Either you do it our way, or we’re basically coming for your seat.” NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. NINA TURNER: And they did do just what they promised. NAOMI KLEIN: So I do think that this movement of movements should have a structure where we see, “Okay, what’s the road? What’s the process going to be where we’re going to lay out our vision; the world we want; our platform.” And part of that, drafting, will have the politicians who are going to run. But I see it as really important for holding politicians accountable as well. Because I do worry. People are so busy, Nina. NINA TURNER: Yeah, I know. NAOMI KLEIN: This is the thing. There are so many fights going on right now. You’ve got the defensive; the fights of the no, which, we can’t not fight the no battles. Like, we’ve got to stop the pipelines, we’ve got to stop police violence, we’ve got to defend healthcare. That’s not an option. We might not like it, but those fights have to happen. At the same time, yes. We have to get people ready to run for office at every level. But I would just argue that we also have to save some space to dream. You know? NINA TURNER: Amen. NAOMI KLEIN: About the world we need. Because it’s not a luxury. That’s the moral center. NINA TURNER: Yeah, it is. And it really is, in reality, the house that the nurses built, and as you said, Senator Sanders built. It’s really one of his quotes about, “Never lose your sense of outrage.” Is really, I think, pivotal to what you’re talking about, which is to use the no, and put that no into action. So you’re saying no to racism, no to sexism, no to polluting water, no to just letting our sisters and brothers [inaudible 00:17:18], but then take that no to the next level and make it actionable in some way in our very own communities. But what has really stuck with me in all of our conversation is when you said, “Leave some room to dream; to hope.” What would you say to people who are feeling a bit hopeless right now? NAOMI KLEIN: Well, actually, the dreams are what sustain us. You know? And also, the reason why it’s hard to do, like, to say, “Well, this is what I can imagine my community looking like.” Or imagine not just fighting for a job, but fighting to have free time. You know? NINA TURNER: Yes: quality of life. NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. I mean, people are fighting so hard to have work that we can sometimes forget that work’s not all we are. NINA TURNER: Well, some people believe, Naomi, that poor people shouldn’t have quality of life. They shouldn’t be able to take a vacation every now and then. They shouldn’t have downtime with their kids, because wealth affords you all of those luxuries, and that poor people just work. Right? The working poor. They work, work, work, work, work, and they never take the time to get to be introspective. NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. The memory that working-class struggles fought for bread and roses. You know? NINA TURNER: True that. NAOMI KLEIN: And for the right to weekends, and the right to free time. You know? And for all we need. We don’t learn this stuff in school. That’s stamped out. But the thing that really inspired me about Jeremy Corby’s campaign is that, when you put these ideas out there in the culture, people are so attracted to them, and, particularly, young people. NINA TURNER: People respond. NAOMI KLEIN: Yeah. And young people who have grown up more outside the spell of neo-liberalism than my generation. Right? Because they’ve only been politically active for maybe 10 years; really since Wall Street collapsed, so they haven’t been as ideologically indoctrinated as people like me who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s where it was the full on, like, selling us these policies as if they were going to work. Nobody even bothers to do that anymore, so there is this vacuum and there is this tension. Because, on the one hand, progressive ideas are more popular. You see all these kids walking around in t-shirts that call themselves socialists. It’s like, “What’s This is new.” NINA TURNER: It’s the cool thing. The cool kids are democratic socialists, like one that we adore so much in Vermont. NAOMI KLEIN: But in my generation, the real radicals were anticapitalist. But they didn’t say socialists. [crosstalk 00:20:10]. NINA TURNER: No that was bad word. You didn’t want to be associated with that. NAOMI KLEIN: But on the other hand, some very ugly ideas are also surging into the vacuum left by neo-liberalism; white supremacist ideas. So the moral responsibility to rise to this historic moment is huge. When I really think about it; when I thought about that and I think about climate change on top of that, I think, “My God. We just cannot afford to screw up.” NINA TURNER: We can’t. The meteor is coming down. We’ve got to get it right then and there. We’ve got to crush it. Well, Naomi, thank you so much for being such a wonderful activist, advocate, author of No Is Not … Let me get it upright. No is absolutely, unequivocally not enough. Thank you for reminding us that, in everything that we’re fighting for and/or fighting against, that we do need to take the time to dream. I am Nina Turner. This is the Nina Turner show, and you are watching the Real News Network.