This Brave Nation
Naomi Klein
Naomi Klein
The Shock Doctrine, No Logo

Naomi Klein may have been raised to be a radical, but mostly she just wanted to go to the mall. Her grandfather was a Disney animator who was fired and blacklisted for organizing the first strike against the company. Her parents moved to Canada in protest of the war in Vietnam; her mother went on to make This is Not a Love Story, a seminal anti-pornography film. It wasn’t until Klein went off to university that her upbringing finally came to the fore.

In December 1989, a man who’d been rejected by the University of Montreal marched into the engineering school with a gun. He separated a number of women from the men, declared “You’re all a bunch of fucking feminists,” and gunned them down. “After that,” Klein recalled in interviews, “you call yourself a feminist.”

Around this time, the first Intifada erupted in the occupied territories. Klein, who is Jewish, wrote an article for the student newspaper called ‘Victim to Victimizer,’ declaring: “not only does Israel have to end the occupation for the Palestinians, but also it has to end the occupation for its own people, especially its women.” After receiving bomb threats, she attended a meeting of the Jewish student union, called to discuss how they would respond to her article. As she remembers it, “the woman sitting next to me said, 'If I ever meet Naomi Klein, I'm going to kill her.' So I just stood up and said, 'I'm Naomi Klein, I wrote ‘Victim To Victimizer,’ and I'm as much a Jew as every single one of you.' I've never felt anything like the silence in that room after that. I was 19, and it made me tough.”

Klein dropped out of school to intern at the Toronto Globe & Mail. She went on to became an editor at This Magazine, a progressive political publication. Klein returned to school in 1995 to finish her degree, and discovered a new generation of student activists determined to challenge corporate power. It was the age of globalization, and the nation-state was expected to wither away at any moment. Corporations were no longer selling products but ‘managing’ brands – lifestyles consumers could identify with and be identified by.

Klein’s critique of this development, No Logo, became a surprise best-seller. Refusing to pose as holier-than-thou, Klein acknowledged her own infatuation with brands as a teenager, the Saturdays spent working at Esprit, at once enabling many young activists to see themselves in her account and making her work accessible to a larger audience. No Logo looked beyond the advertising campaigns to reveal the persistent inequalities and injustices of consumer capitalism. It quickly became the "bible" of the movement against corporate-led globalization.

After No Logo, Klein quickly established herself as one of the world's most radical and incisive political columnists with columns in Toronto's Globe & Mail, London's Guardian and in The Nation in the United States.

With the publication of Klein’s recent book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, she extended her critique of 20th century globalization into the pseudo-imperial 21st century. Reaching across five decades and five continents, she articulated a new moral metaphor with which to understand global capitalism: as a form of torture, sometimes imposed with electrodes and sometimes imposed with IMF loans. Thrilling and revelatory, The Shock Doctrine cracks open the secret history of our era. Exposing these global profiteers, Klein discovered information and connections that shocked even her about how comprehensively the shock doctors' beliefs now dominate our world - and how this domination has been achieved. Raking in billions out of the tsunami, plundering Russia, exploiting Iraq - this is the chilling tale of how a few are making a killing while more are getting killed.

Klein has become our foremost semiologist of capital, explaining to a mass audience how it understands, justifies, and perpetuates its power, even as she determinedly exposes the flaws of the system. Throughout, she has worked to connect her reporting with grassroots activism and the lives of the marginalized, whether by delivering the keynote address to the first meeting of the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians or documenting the struggle of Argentine workers to take control of their factories in a film she made with her husband called The Take. The 80’s mallrat has become one of the world’s most effective radical commentators and the inspiration for millions of people worldwide.

Tom Hayden
Tom Hayden
Author, Activist

Tom Hayden was hardly raised to be a radical. He was brought up in suburban Michigan, singing ‘The Halls of Montezuma’ from memory and going to Catholic school under the watchful eye of Father Charles Coughlin. In the fall of 1957, Hayden arrived at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, an eager, idealistic freshman. Millions of young people were flooding universities across the country; enrollment would more than double over the coming decade. Before he graduated, Hayden would be a leader of his generation and under FBI surveillance.

Hayden was an aspiring journalist, and he joined the staff of the Michigan Daily, quickly rising through the paper’s ranks. In 1960, a group of black students in Greensboro, North Carolina sat down at a whites-only lunch counter and refused to leave until they were served. The civil rights movement had entered a new era, and the student movement had begun. Hayden, at that point, had only a glancing interest in the new movements just starting to stir.

That summer Hayden covered the Democratic Party’s convention in Los Angeles. While John F. Kennedy accepted the nomination inside, Martin Luther King, Jr. was standing with blacks and whites on the picket line outside, in solidarity with the southern civil rights movement. King told Hayden: “Ultimately, you have to take a stand with your life.”

At the same time, one of Hayden’s acquaintances in Ann Arbor, Al Haber, was looking to reinvigorate the northern student movement. He settled on the student affiliate of the League for Industrial Democracy (LID), soon rechristened Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Like the Southern black students who were galvanizing the civil rights movement, forming the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) instead of joining an established organization, the students who made up SDS were increasingly independent of their elders.

Hayden continued to cover the civil rights movement for the Daily, reporting on a sharecroppers strike in Fayette County, Tennessee. By now he’d written an editorial criticizing FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover’s “equation of patriotism and right-wing causes as simplistic.” Hoover promptly placed him under surveillance which would continue for at least 15 years.

Upon graduating, Hayden became SDS’ first field secretary, issuing reports to the membership on the civil rights struggle in the south. SNCC activists and others were regularly arrested and assaulted; several were assassinated. Covering a student march in McComb, Mississippi, Hayden was dragged from his car and beaten. He joined a freedom ride from Atlanta to Albany and was arrested when the riders reached their destination. Hayden had decided to take a stand.

Inspired by the actions of students in the South, frustrated by the paternalistic control of the universities, increasingly skeptical of the political and business elites, SDS felt the need to articulate a vision of what a truly democratic society would look like. The task of drafting the manifesto fell to Hayden, a talented writer, and after a convention in which the group debated, and argued, and extensively reworked his first attempt, SDS issued the Port Huron Statement (named after the Michigan UAW camp where it was produced).

Demanding “that the individual share in those social decisions determining the quality and direction of his life,” it declared: “If we appear to seek the unattainable, then let it be known that we do so to avoid the unimaginable.”

The Port Huron Statement broke with the ‘Old’ Left of the LID, decrying Soviet communism and red-baiting in equal measure. This was a ‘New’ Left, one that embraced non-violence and participatory democracy. In 1964 SDS set out to build an ‘interracial movement of the poor,’ and Hayden joined the organizing project in Newark. There the group focused on slowly building relationships with the community, fighting for local issues like traffic lights and better street lighting.

Hayden was called away from Newark in 1965 by a chance to visit Vietnam. Traveling on the invitation of the North Vietnamese government; he and his colleagues may have been the first Americans to meet with top North Vietnamese officials. Eventually, this contact would help Hayden negotiate the release of a number of POWs, a powerful signal that the North Vietnamese government was willing to talk.

As the student movement turned its attention toward ending the war, the war came to the student movement. In July 1967, a black cabdriver was severely beaten by Newark police. White-owned stores were looted. On the second night of looting, the Governor called in the National Guard, bayonets fixed to their rifles. Armored personnel carriers and trucks with mounted machine guns patrolled the streets. For the moment, Hayden and other activists could only bear witness. After five days under occupation, Hayden helped convince the Governor to withdraw. Twenty-six people were dead, a thousand injured, and fourteen hundred in jail. “We are at a point,” Hayden wrote in a book documenting the violence, “where democracy—the idea and practice of people controlling their lives—is a revolutionary issue in the United States.”

Less than a year later, in April 1968, students at Columbia University, led in part by SDS members, rose up in revolt. They were protesting Columbia’s involvement in research for the Department of Defense, as well as its planned expansion, which threatened to displace many longtime black residents of Harlem. Hayden offered his support to the local SDS leadership, and soon found himself the chair of the ‘commune’ that occupied Mathematics Hall. It was, as Hayden noted in his memoir, “only the most publicized outbreak of that April’s Days of Resistance, which involved a one-day strike by at least one million students, the largest ever.” And it was brutally crushed by the New York Police Department (at the request of the university).

The 1968 Democratic Party convention in Chicago was the scene of the fiercest confrontation yet. Hayden was co-director of the group coordinating the protests. Day after day, the police viciously attacked the protestors, many of them students. Hayden himself was repeatedly assaulted and arrested. The violence even spilled over onto the floor of the convention itself. A generation’s hopes for democratic change were dashed, and SDS disbanded.

Not long after, Richard Nixon was elected president, promising ‘law and order.’ Hayden and seven other activists were indicted by Nixon’s Justice Department for ‘conspiracy.’ Known as the Chicago 8, they were tried in federal court before a Republican judge who also held millions in stock in a military contractor that had been the target of anti-war protests. In a trial that featured one defendant, Black Panther Bobby Seale, bound and gagged in the courtroom, Hayden was ultimately found guilty of ‘incitement’ and contempt of court, and sentenced to prison. Five years of trials and appeals later, his conviction was overturned.

Hayden never stopped organizing against the war, lecturing across the country. When the war finally came to an end, Hayden was living in California, where he made a symbolic run for the Senate. While he was defeated, his campaign provided the basis for the Campaign for Economic Democracy, which organized around a wide variety of issues. The organization led the campaign for Proposition 65 requiring labels on cancer-causing products, and Proposition 99, tripling tobacco taxes to fund billions for public health and anti-tobacco initiatives.

Eventually, Hayden was elected to the State Assembly, and then the State Senate, serving effectively in the legislature until 2000. Despite serving under Republican governors for sixteen of eighteen years, and twice subjected to Republican-led expulsion hearings, Hayden managed to pass over one hundred measures.

Today, Hayden has returned to his first love, journalism. He has written eyewitness accounts for The Nation , where he serves on the editorial board, about the global justice movements in Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Chiapas, and India and he kept in touch and in tune with a new generation of activists with whom he continues to actively engage.

To say he remains a committed radical would be beside the point; for a generation, Tom Hayden defined what it was to be radical.