News Ticker

Review of “No is Not Enough”, by Naomi Klein, 2017, Alfred A Knopf

Washington DC - Roya Ann Miller

Washington DC Protest – Vlad Tchompalov

“No is Not Enough” is a very different book from Naomi Klein’s previous book “This Changes Everything”, as she says herself “No is Not Enough” was written and published extremely quickly. At the time of publishing it was very much up-to-date, dealing with the latest developments in the United States, in particular the policies of the Trump administration. It would be easy to see this book as merely an attack on President Trump, and it is the case that criticism of his policies forms the central theme of the book. She makes the interesting connection between Donald Trump and the promotion of his brand. In her eyes Trumpism is a product, and Donald Trump’s political career is merely another way to enhance the value of his commercial interest, in particular the trademark “Trump”, his personal brand; which is attached to a number of buildings and golf courses, around the world.

She links the phenomena of a political brand to the book she wrote in 2000, “No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies”, and also to “The Shock Doctrine”, which was published in 2008. In particular, she believes that Trump and his supporters are trying to shock the American system in what she refers to as “an all-out war on the public sphere and the public interest.” Naomi adds, that “it is a programme so defiantly unjust and so manifestly corrupt that it can only be pulled off with the assistance of divide and conquer racial and sexual politics, as well as a non-stop spectacle of media distractions.” In her opinion, “Trump’s cabinet of billionaires and multimillionaires tells us a great deal about the administration’s underlying goals.” She also refers to, “the near impenetrable sense of impunity – of being above the usual rules and laws” – which is a defining feature of the Trump administration.  As Naomi says, “This book’s argument, in a nutshell is that Trump, extreme as he is, is less an aberration than a logical conclusion – a pastiche of pretty much all the worst trends of the past half-century.”

However, this book does not praise Hillary Clinton, it sees the Clintons as being part of the governing political elite who have served the United States so poorly over the last decades, who have stood by as inequality grew to obscene levels, did nothing to control the avarice of bankers, and failed to understand the way in which so many Americans were being forced into poverty. She says that, “as a candidate, Hillary Clinton was in no position to speak to the mounting popular rage that defines our times.” Naomi says that she did support Bernie Sanders bid for the US Presidency, and that the mainstream candidates other than Bernie, promoted a version of neoliberalism which has failed. She says, “only a bold and genuinely redistributive progressive agenda can offer the real answers to inequality and the crises in democracy.”

Make no mistake, this book is a political tract, it is a polemic, and the author offers her political solution towards the end of the book. Working with a group of about 60 people, she was one of the authors of The Leap Manifesto, subtitled “A call for a Canada based on caring for the earth and one another.” It is this fact that that marks out “No is Not Enough” from “This Changes Everything”; whereas in the former book it is clear that Naomi has an agenda, and sees neoliberalism, or late stage capitalism, as a large part of the problems we face, it is also a classic piece of reporting of the problems associated with climate change. “No is Not Enough” goes further, it is a clear rallying cry, and offers the author’s solution to the profound problems that we face, not only in the United States. I recommend that you read it, Naomi Klein, is an important author, she writes well, and her arguments are always interesting, even if you do not agree with everything (or anything) she says.

18 Feb. 2017, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA, by Fibonacci Blue

To give one, very difficult, example of where some will disagree with her, I think that immigration will become a problem for those on the left and the right, ultimately it is not about racial hatred, although that it far too common, but the right of states to deny entry across their borders. The migrant march on Germany, when a million people entered the country, showed the limitations of open borders. Many on the left initially welcomed migrants with open arms, but when German women were abused in public by men who had very different ideas of the role of the sexes, the welcome cooled. I have also heard stories of Greeks becoming very frustrated with the influx of migrants, of crimes being committed and of international agencies helping migrants and ignoring Greeks, who have their own profound problems of survival. Naomi writes about the “anti-immigrant backlash in Europe” and how demonstrations have been held to welcome immigrants, but the problem is not a simple one and requires careful management. If migration brings serious social problems, because of its scale, then voters will react against it. Some on the left, and a number of international NGOs, believe that borders should be ignored, however this does not mean that this is the correct policy, it is a “wicked problem”. A recent BBC programme – http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08yx0p4/panorama-trumps-fortress-america (you need to live in the UK, or use VPN to access this) highlighted the problems, one area where President Trump has been effective is in increasing the number of illegal immigrants arrested and deported, but this has, in some cases, meant that families have been split and children have been left to fend for themselves in the United States, while their parents have been taken to prison, or have been deported.

There are few people writing today, who can express their anger with the current state of affairs so well. She says, “Because already, before Trump, we had a culture that treats both people and planet like so much garbage. A system that extracts lifetimes of labour from workers and then discards them without protection. The treats millions of people, excluded from economic opportunity, as refuge is to be thrown away inside prisons.”

Today we face a global emergency, and it is clear that President Trump has no understanding of the threat from climate change, nor does he, or the people around him, comprehend the pressures that extreme inequality have created within American society. Naomi’s response, is raw, angry and intelligent, she is the antithesis of Trumpism, and her voice and the voices of many like her, are going to define political debate in the United States and elsewhere in the years to come, as the extent of the crisis we face becomes even more obvious. She is not a voice that can be ignored.

© Andrew Palmer, 2017 (please do not reproduce without permission).

Leave a Reply