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Klein and Lewis Thrust into the Volcano

Blog posts are the work of individual contributors, reflecting their thoughts, opinions and research.
Shaken pigs recover from a sudden unexpected attack during the G20 in Toronto
Shaken pigs recover from a sudden unexpected attack during the G20 in Toronto

Politics, →Toronto News

At this years Under The Volcano Festival, Naomi Klein (author of “No Logo”), and Arthur Manuel (from the Secwepmc Nation) gave a talk from the main stage which was moderated by Avi Lewis (formerly of Much Music). The talk touched on a number of subjects, from indigenous sovereignty, and climate change, to the debate over “a diversity of tactics”. At one point, Klein and Lewis commented on a controversial statement that Klein had made at a jail solidarity demonstration during the G20 in Toronto. Klein had stated that “instead of doing their job, (the Toronto police) decided to play public relations”. Her statement was most glaringly offensive for it’s suggestion that the police have any legitimate job, let alone, a legitimate job in repressing militant resistance.

It is not my intention to pay tribute to the celebrity status of individuals such as Naomi Klein or Avi Lewis, but rather to use this as a convenient context in which to draw attention to the mindset of the prevailing mainstream attitudes about our abilities to fight for liberation.

During her talk at Under The Volcano, Klein and her husband Lewis responded to a video clip on the Stimulator’s “It’s The End of The World as We Know it and I Feel Fine”, where her mistake is clearly pointed out. Her response was that “(doing their job) was a bad choice of words” and that the police “should be out of the job”. This was a clear attempt to gain back some credibility in the increasingly radical environment that we are seeing here in so called “Canada”, in 2010. Whether it was a sincere correction, or whether it was for fear of catching a pie in the face, is rather irrelevant. What I would like to focus on, is this notion of the police “playing public relations” for the “Get Off The Fence Contingent”, during the G20.

As if attempting to speak for his wife (and perhaps shield some of the backlash), Avi Lewis, echoed by Naomi, continued to stand by the idea that the police were told to “stand down” during the militant actions on Saturday. Presumably, “allowing” the anti-capitalists to “run wild” would then allow the police to justify a massive crackdown. The word “subsequent” was even used to describe the very necessary actions by the state in order to protect itself from the possibility of generalized revolt, as if to blame the revolutionaries for ending up at the end of a gun.

This is troubling for a number of reasons.

The first is that it totally ignores the everyday public relations of the state and it’s police forces, and even gives substance to it. Whether though mass media, the school system, the community policing centers, racist immigration policies, the ever-expanding prison industrial complex, or the sinister police occupation of our neighborhoods; we are constantly dealt a form of public relations convincing us of the total omnipotence of, and control from our local police forces. We are meant to have no dreams of self-determination, only a reliance and subservience under the authorities of the state and capitalism. It is through this daily public relations campaign, that they will always be able to justify a blank cheque for strategic totalitarianism.

If the police were in fact “told to stand down” on Saturday afternoon during the G20, then from the perspective of the everyday public relations effort it was an utter and total failure. The pigs who gave those orders were clearly not expecting the ferociousness of the resistance that afternoon. The “public relations” that they played, left police running for their lives on Younge St, police cars abandoned with computers, ammunition, and intelligence documents, as well as the beautiful image of a torched billion dollar paper tiger, for all the world to see. Paper cuts hurt very bad, but that should never be a deterrent to those who wish to seek a complete change in the social relations of the world in which we live. To suggest that the police planned for this to happen so would be like saying that the Black Bloc planned for over a thousand arrests as a way to further radicalize the rest of the participants in the G20, as well as the whole city of Toronto. I’m not so sure myself but they do say that a baton to the head is worth a thousand leaflets!

In retrospect, however, the foolish mistake made by the all powerful, may not have mattered all that much, because when they failed, they had people like Naomi Klein, Judy Rebick, and a host of other public relations specialists to continue to prop up their regime in the interests (whether the specialists themselves realize it or not) of maintaining a career off of their commentary on the oppression of others, always in a victimizing tone. It is also very important to point out that the Canadian Labour Congress march at 12 noon on Saturday, which is stated as being “in the interests of civil society”, was in fact a complete and total police orchestration. The police decided the starting point, the end point, and the route. This, in contrast, has not been brought up at all by many of those who claim to be so concerned with police actions during the G20.

Of course, Rebick and Klein are not our only enemies when we ourselves internalize our lack of control over the conditions we live in. But it never helps to have one more amplified voice of defeatism. The destruction of the image of police authority was by no means the only important action taken during the G20. The anti-colonial analysis injected though many different actions and talks, were easily as important in building the case against the type of society in which we live.

The passion for freedom is stronger than all prisons!

 

- Insurgent G 

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Comments

Instead of saying that Avi

Instead of saying that Avi Lewis is 'formerly of Much Music', you could've said 'currently of Al Jazeera News'.

And although I'm not trying to 'pay tribute to the celebrity status of individuals', I'd like to point out that Naomi Klein coined the term Disaster Capitalism and her book, Shock Doctrine, has reached an audience more far-reaching than my zines ever will.

I do not mean to take away from the powers of self-publishing; trust me, I'm a believer. But is it not commendable within the movement to reach out and inform people who have never been exposed to such knowledge before? And does the fact that she's been recognized for her work and therefore gained 'celebrity status' mean she is no longer a legitimate person? Am I uninformed about her evil alter-ego?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems to me that you have called Klein an 'enemy' over an ignorant comment which she may or may not have meant, and a correction which she may or may not have meant. And although I respect your right to do so, I must say that as an individual who strives to be anti-oppressive in every aspect of my life, I too say stupid things that only in retrospect can I see as oppressive statements.

Does this make me an enemy too?

I surely hope not.

Respect and solidarity to everyone.

hey Natalie, you raise a lot

hey Natalie, you raise a lot of interesting questions here. a couple thoughts: I don't think it's a question of celebrity status or not, or mainstream publishing vs self-publishing.  

I recently read a really interesting criticism of Klein's book Fire with Fire by bell hooks, called "Dissident Heat: Fire with Fire."  The essay is probably available in a few different publications, but I found it in a book called "Women, Sex & Power in the Nineties."

I came away from it with some very specific grounds from which to be critical of the place from which Klein's comments are coming.  I'm on my way out the door but I'll comment more on this later to explain what I mean.

wrong Naomi.

"Fire with Fire" was written by Naomi Wolff not Naomi Klein....

http://www.amazon.com/Fire-New-Female-Power-How/dp/0449909514
 

ha!  I just read that essay

ha!  I just read that essay two weeks ago and have been thinking since then that it was about klein.

thanks for the correction.

 

it's still a good essay!

if anyone on here who knows

if anyone on here who knows of any essays/articles by klein that show her relationship to feminism, please let me know.

Collaborators Etc.

The thing with personalities such as Klein and Manuel, having met them myself and observing their activities, is that they are essentially naive amateurs when it comes to radical militant resistance.  For these movement celebrities, and that is certainly a true description of their position (lots of media time, high profile political career, etc.) it's a big deal just to be in a large rally.  Their experience with actual resistance is very limited.

Their lack of perspective flows directly from their middle-class position, as does their legal-reformist politics.

It can be hoped that they are in the midst of a sharp learning curve, otherwise their collaboration will have to be seen in a much harsher light (as with David Eby, who continues to cheerlead police repression against our movement).

It is correct to challenge them on their statements and activities, otherwise they will never learn (if they are in fact capable of doing so).  According to this report, Klein herself admits  she used a poor choice of words post-G20.  That is a good sign and better than we got from Eby and Derrick O'Keefe etc.
 

"This was a clear attempt to

"This was a clear attempt to gain back some credibility in the increasingly radical environment that we are seeing here in so called “Canada”, in 2010. Whether it was a sincere correction, or whether it was for fear of catching a pie in the face, is rather irrelevant."

Fuck, you guys are pompous assholes.

<<The increasingly radical

<<The increasingly radical environment>> ?

I hope that can be radicalized much more than that ? You don't feel is a bit <<calm>> since Toronto ?

Every time, it's <<Back to the Normal>>. I feel that is so much unpowerful. And the <<Normal>> for us oppress people, that's a fucking nightmare.

What can be done now ? How that can be done ?

I personally never have any hope concerning the participation of Klein in the movement, she's another big ego-star. I think No LOGO was a very superficial book targeting logos instead of doing a radical and whole analysis of what we oppose, on some ways diverting from the principal problems, creating a central interest for something that is not central. The person that gain more from this publication was Klein herself.   

I think sometimes that's good to clarify positions like reformism vs revolution, non-violent show vs militant resistance and insurrectionary movement... so the things can be more clear and we know more who's are friends ?

Insurgent G, I still very like you're text.

The state is very powerful.

The state is very powerful. They can pretty much do whatever they want (pretend to have laws about being so many meters from a fence)...and have full copmplete resources to back them up (encrypted radio communications, helicopters, cars, motorcycles, bikes, horses, etc).

http://www.torontosun.com/news/columnists/joe_warmington/2010/06/30/1456...
 

The first day was a public relations plan to allow a little 'destruction' in order to get full public opinion behind them for the rest of the week to clamp down and everyone and anyone putting the 'Miami model' to full use.
 

Wag the dog!

I think anyone within our

I think anyone within our communities needs to be challenged when they betray the movement or collaborate.

But I'm really starting to wonder why SO MUCH energy is being placed on attacking (because, even if it raises valid points, this post is written as an attack) people at least sympathetic to the movement, and not in discrediting people who pose a much greater threat to a more just, egalitarian and peaceful world?

Or do we need to purge our own side first?

An easy to find critical

An easy to find critical review of Klein's book can be found at CounterPunch:

http://www.counterpunch.org/cockburn09222007.html

Klein is not an anti-capitalist: she puts forward a type of reformed-Keynesian for the 21st. century.  She attempts to provide many examples of ideology driving or pushing the free-market ideology of the 'Chicago Boys' led by Milton Friedman on a helpless public.  But she mistakes appearances for causes.  Friedman's free market ideas were thrust upon working people and peripheral economies as justification for accumulation, but the central economies never adopted the ideas of Friedman et al.  Central economies are highly controlled among themselves (ie. gas pricing, car prices, utilities, housing supplies, banking fees, mortgage loans, insurance etc.) with an understanding that the state will bail them out when the situation requires.  Free market principles function as useful rhetoric for the public, but central capitalist economies such as the US never adhere to those ideas.  Capitalism is always a disaster (whether there is a crisis or not) for most of humanity and the environment and we don't need 'Disaster Capitalism' to explain it to us.

That said there are also concerns with Cockburn's review of her book.  I would suggest that the notion being advanced in some of the literature that we are entering a phase of monopoly-finance capitalism to be a more informative framework.

Klein, Lewis, etc. represent why the liberal-left in Canada is not feared by the power structure; nor should they be.  They trip over themselves establishing their credibility in accepting the capitalist system; "Take us serious because we are not radicals or socialists and we want to make the capitalist system work better."  Think I am wrong?  Go to the YouTube link below and see what passes for the Canadian left stating why helping the poor is a good idea - it will make capitalism function better.

"Eradicating Poverty Good for the Economy, Premiers Told"

(Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, Campaign 2000, Art Eggleton - why the fuck is he invited)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdZ4LAVTXKM

Infighting over silly stuff like this is a waste of energy

I think the revolution would be better served by focusing attention and hostility towards the ruling class rather than working to alienate folks like Klein who, while she may not be 100% in line with militant action, contributes much to spreading important ideas and analysis.

While radicals pie each and denounce each other, the elites continue to leverage their massive resources to organize our collective funeral. More strategy, less drama.

You are right only if....

...the attention of those who criticize and demonize militants would be on actually planning strategy and not on demonizing and criticizing militants to the media. All of these people (Rebbick, Klein, Dobbin, Eby and now Lewis) spoke on the public sphere. If they think that militants are just going to sit back and let them shit all over their victories, they are only fooling themselves. In St. Paul, both liberal and militant organizers put forth the St. Paul principles, a deal in which they explicitly stated that all criticism will be kept internal as to not cause this same stupid and counterproductive scenario in the media. And you know what, this whole fuckin thing was avoided.

I made a film about this which can be viewed here:
http://submedia.tv/stimulator/2008/10/06/ground-noise-and-static/

The Olympic Resistance Network did a similar thing with their statement of unity which you can read here: http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/newsrelease/2739

But here are the main points:

• We express our collective critique of and opposition to the negative impacts of the 2010 Olympics.

•  We do not need to fully agree or stand by each other’s tactics or ideas, although we may have much to learn and understand from one another.

•   We will refrain from publicly denouncing or marginalizing other groups to mainstream media and law enforcement.

Pretty fuckin simple heh? But the washed out protagonists who are trying to make themselves relevant, chose to ignore the statement and ran their big mouths all over the media and on social media websites.

Meanwhile Klein and Lewis continue pushing the idea that the cops were told to stand down so that they could let the black bloc "run wild" in orer to justify their budget. An article by the Toronto Sun shows something different:

"The orders went from engage to, no, don't engage to engage to, no, don't engage,' " said an officer. "It was an absolute shambles. Everyone was talking over each other on the radio. Nobody seemed to know what to do. It was just a mess."

http://www.torontosun.com/news/columnists/joe_warmington/2010/06/30/1456...

During the panel at Under the Volcano, Lewis said that Al Jazeera got a statement form the Toronto pigs saying "Look at the cop cars burning on the street, this is why we needed this extraordinary budget."

I've searched Al Jazeera for coverage on the June 26 rebellion and I only found two articles:

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2010/06/2010626224935922337.html
http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2010/06/2010626192640501827.html

Neither of these mention the police statement. Maybe they didn't think it was important enough to publish it, or maybe I just couldn't find it. Someone help me out here.

But for those of us who followed the bloc, we witnessed scores of Toronto cops running in fear. This is important because it shows that the police apparatus can be thwarted and defeated. Many people risked their freedom to show this and Klein's and Lewis' statements do a disservice to these folks.

Like Klein said at UTV "Who's tired of the diversity of tactics debate?" I'm fuckin exhausted and I would love it if this "10 year old" debate would not continue to haunt us. But it seems it's the more moderate elements of the movement who keep putting their feet in their mouths, and again, expected us radicals to meekly shut the fuck up in the wake of their criticism. Not in their life.

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