Review: Fences and Window by Naomi Kliene

IN FENCES and Windows, the No Logo author Naomi Klein gives a series of ’frontline dispatches’ – newspaper articles and speeches – following the ’coming out party’ of the anti-capitalist movement in Seattle two years ago.

Dispatches from the Frontlines of the Globalization Debate, by Naomi Klein

Fences and Windows isn’t a follow up to No Logo, the anti-capitalist ’bible’, nor does Klein want it to be a guide on how to take the movement forward.

Thank God for that, because although Klein calls on the movement to develop concrete political and economic alternatives to global capitalism, judging by this book she has no idea how any change could be achieved.

Klein can realistically assess what the movement has achieved so far and can be eloquent and perceptive. As she insists herself in the preface, she is no leader.

The theme Klein keeps returning to is how to achieve democracy within the anti- capitalism movement itself and the movement’s struggle to achieve a democratic alternative to the tyranny of global capitalism and imperialism.

Fences and Windows is an immensely frustrating book, because Klein will not engage with socialist ideas about how to achieve the above.

Lack of democracy

She celebrates the diverse anti-capitalist network, while admitting that the way these very small groups and individuals organise and make decisions on demonstrations, publicity, campaigns, strategy and tactics are undemocratic because they do not engage the vast majority of protesters’ opinions.

Although Klein can identify this weakness, she can only argue for further ’radical decentralisation’ as a solution.

Klein sees the movement as ’pro democracy’ – a democracy that is participatory, is community based and that, unlike the various ’free trade’ agreements, respects the right of self-determination of nations.

The sad thing is that these are all basic socialist ideas (although only part of the picture) but Klein doesn’t recognise them as such. Klein can’t or won’t get to grips with socialist ideas because for her, socialism is undemocratic, bureaucratic Stalinism.

She argues that the traditional left are against diversity, want to impose an ideology and refuse protesters the chance to air dissenting political views.

Genuine, democratic socialism has absolutely nothing to do with this. Genuine socialism, or Marxism, can offer an analysis of how capitalism ’works’ as an economic system and how it can be overthrown by the working class.

For instance in ’IMF go to hell’ Klein comes closest to drawing a socialist conclusion. She writes: "(the) IMF had its chance to run Argentina. Now it’s the people’s turn".

But how? – through community based local democracy, Klein argues. Okay. But how are the banks, the factories, the public utilities, the land etc going to be expropriated from the hands of national and foreign capitalists? Who is going to control the economy and how?

What happens when the ruling class of the rest of the world ’intervenes’ as it always does when its profits are threatened?

Of course, Klein doesn’t answer these questions. As she argues, she’s just a journalist, and no politician. But Klein is no impartial writer, and in Fences and Windows is clearly engaging herself in the debate.

What about the working class, can they change society? Klein doesn’t see the key role of workers and the weakness of her position can be seen in her writings on the role of the state and its attempts to oppress all dissent.

In ’Fencing in the movement: criminalising dissent’, she analyses the mass protests against the G8 in Genoa last July, where a protester, Carlo Giullani, was shot dead by the Italian riot police.

In an article written a month or so after this shooting, Klein describes how Berlusconi and his government tried to use Genoa as an excuse to ban all protests and demonstrations. She appeals to academics, intellectuals, NGOs and the so-called ’left’ parties to use their position to speak out against Berlusconi’s plans.

Klein fears that Italians will be powerless to resist. Less than a year later though, in April 2002, the powerful Italian working class brought the country to a standstill and threatened to topple the hated government.

A general strike was called against Berlusconi’s attempts to attack workers’ rights – a strike that saw over two million Italians on the streets!

Fences and Windows is worth reading – at least to get a sense of what the anti-capitalist movement is about and a sense of its spirit. If you are looking for a serious discussion on how an alternative to global capitalism can be built, you will find no answers here.

Published by Flamingo, £8.99.


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