Naomi Klein is a journalist, activist and author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism and No Logo. She writes a syndicated column for The Nation and The Guardian. Yotam Marom is a political organizer, educator, and writer based in New York. He has been active in the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and is a member of the Organization for a Free Society. This conversation was recorded in New York City.
So those are the two kind of prerequisites for a moment like this to take place. And then you have to ask, What’s the third element that makes it all come together, what’s the trigger, the magic dust? Well, I’m not sure what the answer is, but I know what it feels like. It feels like something has been opened up, a kind of space nobody knew existed, and so all sorts of things that were impossible before are possible now. Something just got kind of unclogged. All sorts of people just started to see their struggles in this, started being able to identify with it, started feeling like winning is possible, there is an alternative, it doesn’t have to be this way. I think that’s the special thing here.
Occupation in general, as a tactic, is a really brilliant form of a dual-power struggle because the occupation is both a home where we get to practice the alternative—by practicing a participatory democracy, by having our radical libraries, by having a medical tent where anybody can get treatment, that kind of thing on a small level—and it’s also a staging ground for struggle outwards. It’s where we generate our fight against the institutions that keep us from the things that we need, against the banks as a representative of finance capitalism, against the state that protects and propels those interests.
But I’m still wondering about the question of policy—of making the leap from small-scale alternatives to the big policy changes that allow them to change the culture. A lot of people have come to the realization that the system is so busted that it really isn’t about who you get into office. But one of the ways of responding to that is to say, “Okay, we’re not going to form a political party and try to take power, but we are going to look at this system and try to identify the structural barriers to real change, and advocate for political goals that might begin to mend those structural flaws.” So that means things like the way corporations are able to fund elections and the role of corporate media and the whole issue of corporate personhood in this country. It is possible to find a few key policy fights that could conceivably create a situation where, ten years down the road, people might not feel so completely cynical about the idea of change within the political system. What do you think about that?
But that was a pre-OWS political calculation. And as you pointed out, OWS is in the business of changing what is possible. So what I’ve been saying when I speak to environmental groups is: start to imagine what would be possible if the climate movement were not out there on its own but part of a much broader political uprising fighting a greed-based economic model. Because in that context, it is practical to talk about changing this system. It’s much more practical, in fact, than pushing corrupt plans like cap-and-trade, which we know don’t stand a chance of getting us where science tells us we need to go.