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Support Disaster Capitalism. No! Hang on a minute, I mean …

05/09/2013

Antony Loewenstein wants your money. He needs to raise some capital. To fight capitalism.
Disaster Capitalism - A proposed film by Thor Neureiter and Antony Loewenstein
Antony is one of the very few truly independent journalists in Australia. He is not in the pocket of big business like the mainstream newspapers, of government like the ABC or of a political party like Green Left Weekly. His career lives or dies on the support of his readers. Few journalists work as hard as Antony for every dollar earned.

If you live in Australia – the birthplace of Murdochism – you would know how desperately we need independent journalists here.

The Australian mainstream media is, in a word, crap. Beyond banal and biased, its level of deceit right across the board would shock media consumers from most other countries I’ve visited – including some of the totalitarian ones.

It’s not just shock-jocks and the Murdoch tabloids. Supposedly ‘liberal progressive’ news sources such as Fairfax and the ABC routinely spin from a heavily pro-corporate or pro-government agenda. If you can call outright lies such as the Lateline report that triggered the Northern Territory Intervention ‘spin’.

And the Australian media is racist. Unrelentingly. Unapologetically. Though its self-imagined left leaning outlets would vehemently deny it from behind their white blindfolds.

Antony is one of a handful of Australian journos swimming against the flow of sewage that passes for reporting in this country (Hmm, maybe not the best metaphor. Sorry Ant.). Unlike me he’s not so aggressive and offensive as to frighten the horses (though he seems to have Australia’s Zionist lobby a bit rattled) but he is able to reformulate viewpoints subversive of the repressive status quo into something digestible – if not always palatable – to Australia’s suburban middle classes.

When he left his job as a Fairfax cadet I coined the term “Australia’s first post-corporate journalist” to describe his new direction – an experiment I thought would fail within months. More than a decade later he is going stronger than ever, earning praise from the likes of Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, Jeremy Scahill and Naomi Klein.

He makes me so jealous I want to strangle him some times.

Antony’s latest project is his first foray into documentary film, Disaster Capitalism, a collaboration with New York film-maker Thor Neureiter based on Antony’s recent book Profits of Doom.

‘Disaster capitalism’ is Naomi Klein’s thesis that the worldwide neoliberal economy has reached maximum maturity and is now beginning to eat itself – and us with it.

Capitalism, by its nature, results in the continuous transfer of wealth up the hierarchy towards those people and institutions most able to invest in economic activity. The way it avoids becoming hopelessly top heavy and stagnating with all of the money held in a few hands is by continuously reinvesting profits into new economic activity that must find an outlet through new markets.

The problem, in a closed system, is that most profitable investment opportunities will eventually be fully exploited and the markets flooded with competing goods and services, driving down prices and eating away profits. The only options for capitalist investors is either to shift to non-productive speculative investment – causing bubbles that destabilise the economy with a series of boom-bust cycles that will eventually drive it into catastrophic inflation and recession – or artificially generate new investment opportunities by cannibalising the economy and society that sustains them.

Such cannibalisation can include corporate takeovers that eventually result in market domination by monopolies or cartels – as we have already seen among Western media outlets and pharmaceutical companies – the generation of social crises that call for greater investment in instruments of repression such as militaries, police and prisons or the destruction of existing infrastructure so that new investment is required to replace it.

While natural disasters will destroy infrastructure, even when supercharged with climate change they are unlikely to produce the ever increasing rate of destruction needed by capitalist economies to feed the geometric growth required to avoid stagnation.

The most effective man-made method of destroying large amounts of infrastructure quickly is war. Strategic war in which missile attacks and high level bombing is used to wipe out factories, roads, bridges, power stations, water and sewage treatment plants as well as public and residential buildings works particularly well.

Neoliberal economies were able to avoid relying heavily on disaster capitalism as long as they could find new markets via neocolonialism or – following the inevitable failure of Marxism – incorporating the economies of former Soviet bloc countries. However now capitalist economies are pretty much mature the world over. The whole world has become a closed economic system, necessitating steadily escalating levels of repression and war to provide the investment opportunities needed. Extensive civilian casualties aren’t required – civilians are needed to provide consumers, workers and prisoners – but extensive destruction of material is.

What’s required is not boots on the ground and bullets in the head, but police, prisons, surveillance systems, bombs, missiles and air power. These not only create the oppression and destruction needed by the markets, they create the shock, awe and insecurity needed by leaders to ensure compliance with the world order enabling the whole process.

While vital for profits, such things are not good for children or other living things.

Actually Klein didn’t spell out her thesis as clearly as that – mostly she focused on the effects rather than the causes of disaster capitalism, which she seemed to see as a nebulous conspiracy rather than the inevitable outcome of the economic structures we have created. But if she wasn’t so lame at structural analysis I’m sure she would have.

In Disaster Capitalism, Antony takes us on a horror and wonder tour of Afghanistan, Haiti and Papua New Guinea, documenting the effects of disparate applications of disaster capitalism in different societies as well as some of the struggling local alternatives to it.

But the documentary isn’t made yet. He hasn’t got the capital. And though there’s lots of neoliberal investment dollars flying around the world looking for somewhere to alight and feed Antony would prefer they didn’t feed on his journalism.

So he’s enlisted the help of Kickstarter to crowd-source the $20,000 he needs to get the film finished. So far slightly over half that amount has been committed, but the kicker with Kickstarter is that he won’t get any of it unless the entire amount is pledged by September 19. Otherwise all the money committed goes back to those who pledged it, Antony gets nothing, and no film is made.

This project is worth supporting on its own merits. But it is also worth supporting because its success would create a precedent that would encourage other independent documentary makers in Australia and the world over to seek funding for their projects independent of big business and the state.

He who pays the piper calls the tune, so if you don’t want to keep hearing the same old Hits From The Plutocracy over and over again, cough up.

You can donate to Disaster Capitalism through the Kickstarter webpage here. You can give as little as US$1, but if you fork out $25 or more you start getting presents from Thor and Antony. Fifty bucks earns you a copy of Antony’s book Profits of Doom. From $500 upwards you get your name in the credits, so start thinking of a flash pseudonym that will kickstart your own career as a big shot movie producer.

Or you can email Antony to ask about other methods of contributing to the project at antloew@gmail.com.

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3 Comments
  1. Wish I really understood your economic analysis. When dealing with economics at some point it’s a little like showing me a sophisticated math problem. When you publish an “economics for five year olds” book with lots of cartoons, send me a link.

    But, as far as I can understand what you wrote, it sounds like war is useful for sustaining capitalism because of the rebuilding opportunities.

    I have an idea that switching to renewable resources would be constructive for capitalism, or at least for creating jobs. We’d need more and better public transportation, for one. Energy sources like wind turbines need to be built, transported, installed, and kept up. Same for solar panels. Green architecture replaces old style buildings that rely heavily on electricity to maintain temperatures… Creating and maintaining more green spaces. More small scale organic farms.

    Maybe you can do a post sharing your ideas for an alternative economic system, or whatever solutions you might have in mind.

    PS. Tried to contribute $5 but need to do it through Amazon, and my account is 10 years old, I don’t know the password, and it’s connected to a bank account that doesn’t exist. Oy! Why can’t they use paypal?! Make it a bit easier for me.

    Like

    • Wish I really understood your economic analysis.

      Really it’s just a rip off of Marx’s ‘crisis of (neoliberal) capital’ thesis but substituting his superstitious nonsense of dialectical materialism with the benefits of hindsight.

      To Marx the neoliberal capitalist system would inevitably collapse when it flooded its own markets and investment opportunities and give way to the ‘only thing that could replace it’ – a centralised command economy.

      What Marx failed to anticipate was (a) the flexibility of free market capitalism due to its ability to quickly reallocate resources to weak points and its ability to generate extra demand through industrialised war and consumerism and (b) the example Marxist economies gave the rest of the world as to the unworkability of centralised command economies.

      Switching to renewables is necessary for the environment but the decentralised nature of things like wind-turbines and solar panels make them less useful to stock market investors and financiers – the bottom line for neoliberal capitalism. You can make a few bucks investing in the initial infrastructure but unless someone comes along and destroys it at regular intervals the potential for long term profits is limited (unlike centralised power generation through fossil fuel or nuclear power stations).

      There’s lots of alternative economic systems about though.

      The mercantilist systems that dominated in pre-20th Century European empires aren’t as subject to the crisis of capital and unlike neoliberalism with its ever-accelerating upward pumping of profits the trickle-down effect actually works with mercantilism. The problem is that it allows far less potential for class mobility (you can’t allow too much competition at the top) and they require more ruthless exploitation of colonial resource bases (you can’t allow the coolies to start developing industries that might begin processing their own resources).

      The mixed economies of Scandinavia, China and Venezuela are able to delay, though not ultimately avoid, the crisis of capital but as the crisis approaches they become steadily less egalitarian and require ever greater levels of social oppression to function. They too cannot function in a closed system as they require steadily increasing trade surpluses to ‘buy off’ the dissatisfied masses and you can’t have every country in the world running a surplus. Essentially they export poverty in a manner halfway between colonial mercantilism and neocolonial neoliberalism.

      My preferred system would be a syndicalist gift economy with no private property (though personal property is fine) and no consumerism. Because it requires high levels of social altruism, relatively low living standards by consumerist measures and cannot tolerate centralisation of power or wealth it also requires a degree of social consensus that hasn’t existed in the west for several centuries (except in small pockets that were quickly wiped out by the surrounding capitalists and/or Marxists).

      For real examples of what I mean, check out Catalonia during the Spanish Revolution or the Ukraine in 1918-21. For a fictional example read Ursula Le Guin’s ‘The Dispossessed’.

      The problem is how to get to a functioning economic system from where we are. There is no magical transition as posited in dialectical materialism and neoliberalism isn’t going to go down without a fight. It will eventually collapse under its own contradictions of course but whether it will leave anything but smoking ruins to try to build a successor system from is very much open to doubt.

      I’m inclined to think it is hopeless, but I would never have anticipated the peaceful deconstruction of Marxism up until Gorbachev either.

      Like

    • You can use PayPal to donate directly to the project via Antony’s website, but that doesn’t help him meet his Kickstarter target though.

      You can also contact him for bank account details if you want to bypass Paypal because of its appalling behaviour towards Wikileaks (which was mirrored by Amazon).
      antloew@gmail.com

      Like

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