Letters: The catatrophist mindset

Submitted by AWL on 22 February, 2008 - 12:31 Author: Martin Thomas

A footnote to Pat Longman’s review of The Shock Doctrine (Solidarity 3-126). Capitalism has always been full of “hard-faced men who did well out of the war” — or out of whatever recent disaster may have thrown society off balance.

It may well be that since the early 1990s the governing circles of capital have been become more triumphalist, less concerned for stability, more confident about plunging into crises with the belief that the gains in terms of subsequent “restructuring” will outweigh the losses.
George W Bush’s invasion of Iraq — a project plainly deemed a crazy excess by the top people in the USA when ideologues like Paul Wolfowitz mooted it in the late 1990s — and the subsequent measures by Paul Bremer like disbanding the Iraqi army and police, decreeing a flat-rate tax, and announcing that almost everything was up to be privatised, are a case in point.

But, as Alexander Cockburn points out in a review which, to my mind, makes many other convincing critical points about Naomi Klein's book, “‘shock and awe’ was a bust”. It didn’t work for Bush and his friends.
Catastrophes are not sure-fire winners for capital. As Pat hints in her review, workers and the left are not “always destined to be victims” in catastrophes. Sometimes it’s the rich who come out much worse.
Cockburn argues cogently that Klein’s book is shaped by the syndrome where “leftists deem capitalism invincible and fearfully lob copious documentation at each other detailing the efficient devilry of the executives of the system. The internet serves to amplify this pervasive funk into a catastrophist mindset”.

In fact, Klein seems to be only one step short of the quite-pervasive thinking on the left which holds the US ruling class to be so hideously omnipotent that almost everything that happens is a scheme secretly calculated to the advantage of that class (and, for those with those mindset, of Israel). Thus the disconcertingly huge influence of “9/11” conspiracy theories.

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