Naomi Klein reminds Copenhagen protesters that protesters can get violent

Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein. Image via Wikipedia

COPENHAGEN–Naomi Klein won’t go so far as to urge protesters in Copenhagen to turn violent during the United Nations conference here, but she keeps reminding them of the last time they busted windows.

Last night, Klein gave the opening speech at Klimaforum09, which claims to be the “people’s climate summit,” in Copenhagen’s city center, a 15-minute train ride from the Bella Center where the UN Climate Change Conference is taking place.

Klein condemned carbon trading, the basis for the UN’s proposed solution, as the privatization of the atmosphere, as “the biggest case of disaster capitalism we have ever witnessed.” But she spent as much time reminding her activist audience of the violent protests that shut down world-trade meetings in Seattle in 1999.

“People have compared this moment to the feeling in the air in Seattle ten years ago,” she said. Among the loudest has been Naomi Klein.

On Nov. 12, she published a column in the Guardian newspaper that, likewise, did not urge violence but gently recalled it under the provocative headline: “The Seattle activists’ coming of age in Copenhagen will be very disobedient.”

Her speech last night was a loose rewrite of that column. Again she grafted the legacy of the Seattle protests, generally described as against globalization, onto the passionate environmentalism of the Copenhagen activists.

“We’ve been doing this for a while now, fighting against the privatization of life itself,” Klein told the crowd, estimated to number about 1,000. “This is what those of us who have been part of the movement that started more than a decade ago have been fighting for, fighting for things that are too important to be left to the market.”

Seattle isn’t the only moment that makes Klein feel wistful. She also misses George W. Bush, as she told us in the Guardian in October: “Obama isn’t helping. At least the world argued with Bush.”

Right. Those good old days before Sept. 11, when the fascists had seized but not yet consolidated their power, and the resistance was violent. Klein wished aloud that Copenhagen would allow activists to return to that “conversation,” which Sept. 11 “so rudely interrupted.”

Only in opposition to Bush, Klein claims in that column, did Europe cling to the Kyoto Protocol. Europe complied with the Kyoto Protocol by enacting a carbon cap and trade system. But last night, she had no love for a Copenhagen Agreement, the possible successor to Kyoto, nor for cap and trade.

Creating a market in carbon, she said, would indulge the same “casino mentality” that led to the global recession.

“Hey let’s do it to carbon; that’ll be fun,” she said to chuckling activists. “Finally we’re seeing the movement and it’s focused on these false solutions, these market based solutions–the insanity, after what we’ve just witnessed, of handing over the most pressing, challenging, horrifying crisis to the very same people that created that crisis, that gambled away people’s jobs and homes and pensions.”

If capitalism is evil, can its recession also be evil? Carbon cap and trade, vilified by conservatives as a socialist tax and by liberals as casino capitalism, is not the only example of disaster capitalism on display in Copenhagen.

Klimaforum09 has its own rival alternative in the City Center: Hopenhagen, a green-themed gathering of concerts and displays sponsored by Coca-Cola, the Gap, and Siemens Corporation. The gigantic globe that serves as its luminous rotating centerpiece features a continent-sized Siemens logo and is powered by Siemens generators linked to a girdle of stationary bicycles.

And there is Klein herself, who advertises her book on disaster capitalism, “The Shock Doctrine” as a “#1 international bestseller” that has been “translated into 27 languages.” When publishers use the word “languages” don’t they mean markets?

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