Montreal-born activist writer and journalist Naomi Klein told a crowd of 600 people at McGill University on Oct. 25 that “peace never had a chance in Iraq.”
“Argentina is a country where Iraq’s goals have already been achieved,” Klein stated. “The country has been sold. Street signs have corporate sponsorship. It is a hollowed out nation.”
Klein has been living in Argentina for the past year with her husband, Avi Lewis, filming a documentary about the rise of the occupied factory movement that occurred on Dec. 19 and 20, 2001. At the world premiere Saturday for scenes from her documentary Ex-Property: Inside the Next Industrial Revolution, Klein showed a ceramics factory in Argentina, that when faced with a shutdown because of it was no longer a profitable business venture, the workers went on a non-traditional strike. “They refused to stop working,” Klein said. “They occupied the factories.”
Ceramica Zanon, the factory featured in Klein’s film, is an occupied factory. Inside the factory, “decisions are made in assemblies. They democratically decided to all earn the same salary,” Klein said. In a modern day David versus Goliath battle, the employees of Ceramica Zanon fended off a court-ordered eviction, armed with slingshots and thousands of people ready to put their bodies on the line to save the factory.
The war in Iraq, according to Klein, was an economic ploy about “making the world safe for multinationals.” She outlined what she calls the “McGovernment McHappy Meal for Success” that has occurred in Iraq since the United States invaded: mass downsizing of the public sector, mass privatization, and mass deregulation of industry.
In the case of Iraq, Klein said “the use of shock and awe military force to enforce economic shock treatment; a process that took three decades in Latin America only took six months in Iraq.” Money, according to Klein, has not been going to the Iraqi people for reparations, but going to firms for reconstruction. “Iraq is being transformed into a mall for multinationals. Bomb before you buy!”
Corporations such as Bechtel and Halliburton have received billion-dollar contracts in Iraq. “Bechtel has rebuilt one mile of road in five months, and has started rebuilding three of the 49 destroyed bridges. Half of the phone lines in Iraq still aren’t working,” said Klein.
“A Wal-Mart could take over the country,” Klein said, paraphrasing Joe M. Allbaugh, chairman and director New Bridge Strategies, a company formed to assist in the reconstruction of Iraq and “take advantage of business opportunities in the Middle East.”. Allbaugh happened to be George W. Bush’s campaign manager during the 2000 presidential election. According to Klein, “It gives a new meaning to a hostile takeover. Bombed into being.”
“Protestors are met with extreme violence,” Klein said. “Police use Taser guns on demonstrators. Activists are on the front lines of poverty and racism in Canada. Defend those on the front lines.”
She continued, “These trials on non-status Algerians and those arrested at Tent City are a tax on decent. They are a transfer of money from broke activists to the state. Where will we be if we lost the right to fight? Please defend the right to fight.”
After the lecture, Klein said, “I absolutely think that universities are always on the front lines of political struggle. There is a tax on activism. Concordia has really been attacked and vilified on a national scale, particularly in the Asper media. To try to associate activists with terrorists, to try to make it seem like there’s something illegitimate or shady about students who are involved in politics become involved in global issues… I’m quite astonished by how severe these campaigns have been. It’s never been as bad as what has happened to Concordia. It’s really crucial that the goal is clearly to de-politicize the campus. You have to stand up to this.”
Saturday night’s benefit lecture called Economic Terror, Deep Democracy was held to raise money for the legal defense funds for the Action Committee for Non-Status Algerians as well as the Tent City Organizing Collective, who were arrested at Tent City in Lafontaine Park on July 5. Klein’s lecture was simultaneously translated into French and Spanish. The event was made possible by Alternatives, QPIRG Concordia QPIRG McGill.
Tickets cost $10 for students and low-income people, and $15 for everyone else. Funds were also raised through additional donations in collection boxes at the doors. At least $6000 was raised for the legal defense funds.