Saturday, November 10, 2007

Latin America’s Shock Resistance

A Great Article
by Naomi Klein

"In less than two years, the lease on the largest and most important US military base in Latin America will run out. The base is in Manta, Ecuador, and Rafael Correa, the country’s leftist president, has pronounced that he will renew the lease “on one condition: that they let us put a base in Miami–an Ecuadorean base. If there is no problem having foreign soldiers on a country’s soil, surely they’ll let us have an Ecuadorean base in the United States.”.....

Of all the differences, the most striking is an acute awareness of the need for protection from the shocks that worked in the past–the coups, the foreign shock therapists, the US-trained torturers, as well as the debt shocks and currency collapses. Latin America’s mass movements, which have powered the wave of election victories for left-wing candidates, are learning how to build shock absorbers into their organizing models. They are, for example, less centralized than in the ’60s, making it harder to demobilize whole movements by eliminating a few leaders. Despite the overwhelming cult of personality surrounding Chávez, and his controversial moves to centralize power at the state level, the progressive networks in Venezuela are at the same time highly decentralized, with power dispersed at the grassroots and community levels, through thousands of neighborhood councils and co-ops. In Bolivia, the indigenous people’s movements that put Morales in office function similarly and have made it clear that Morales does not have their unconditional support: the barrios will back him as long as he stays true to his democratic mandate, and not a moment longer. This kind of network approach is what allowed Chávez to survive the 2002 coup attempt: when their revolution was threatened, his supporters poured down from the shantytowns surrounding Caracas to demand his reinstatement, a kind of popular mobilization that did not happen during the coups of the ’70s......

As a result, the IMF, supremely powerful in the 1980s and ’90s, is no longer a force on the continent. In 2005 Latin America made up 80 percent of the IMF’s total lending portfolio; the continent now represents just 1 percent–a sea change in only two years.

The transformation reaches beyond Latin America. In just three years, the IMF’s worldwide lending portfolio had shrunk from $81 billion to $11.8 billion, with almost all of that going to Turkey. The IMF, a pariah in countries where it has treated crises as profit-making opportunities, is withering away......

It stands to reason that the revolt against neoliberalism would be in its most advanced stage in Latin America. As inhabitants of the first shock lab, Latin Americans have had the most time to recover their bearings, to understand how shock politics work. This understanding is crucial for a new politics adapted to our shocking times. Any strategy based on exploiting the window of opportunity opened by a traumatic shock– the central tenet of the shock doctrine–relies heavily on the element of surprise. A state of shock is, by definition, a moment when there is a gap between fast-moving events and the information that exists to explain them. Yet as soon as we have a new narrative that offers a perspective on the shocking events, we become reoriented and the world begins to make sense again.

Once the mechanics of the shock doctrine are deeply and collectively understood, whole communities become harder to take by surprise, more difficult to confuse–shock-resistant."

No comments: