Naomi Klein is no pseudo-socialist, pseudo-progressive. She’s the real deal. [w/ video]

The Take

Before I had seen Naomi Klein and her husband Avi Lewis‘s 2004 documentary The Take, I was somewhat ashamed that I had not taken the time to sit down and watch it.

After viewing the documentary recently, I can say with certainty that I now deeply regret not watching it as soon as it came out.  I feel like I should have been shouting this film’s praises from rooftops for several years now.  This amazing, soaring, soul-wrenching, powerful, simple and yet also profound film is without a doubt the best documentary I have seen in the last 5 years (and possibly ever).

After watching The Corporationanother documentary in which Naomi Klein is featured extensively — with an old Marxist philosophy professor of mine, I was somewhat surprised to hear him so thoroughly bash its content.

“There’s nothing revolutionary in it.  There is nothing Marxist in it.  It’s nothing but the same old reformism,”  he told me.

Upon reflection, I suppose my former professor was entirely right about The Corporation.  However, The Take should put to rest once and for all any denigration of Naomi Klein personally as a non-revolutionary even if The Corporation may not have met expectations.  If there are any Marxists, anarchists or other revolutionary comrades out there who doubt Naomi Klein’s progressive and revolutionary bona fides, I challenge them to watch The Take and still hold that opinion.

Naomi Klein is no pseudo-socialist, she’s the real deal.  This is the film that puts her over the top in my estimation into Noam Chomsky-esque territory (and coming from me, that is possibly the highest compliment I can give).

Anyway, for your viewing pleasure, I now present to you The Take by Naomi Klein.  If you enjoy it, I strongly urge you to go to the film’s website and consider purchasing a copy of it.  This calibre of film making deserves our support.

22 Responses to “Naomi Klein is no pseudo-socialist, pseudo-progressive. She’s the real deal. [w/ video]”

  1. 1 Idealistic Pragmatist 20 August, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    I agree with you about “The Take.” But what, specifically, is your beef with “The Corporation”?

  2. 2 paulitics 20 August, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    Hi Idealistic Pragmatist,

    I don’t have any beef with “The Corporation”, per se. I thought it was a fantastic movie and I’m a big fan of Joel Bakan (I even bought the book too).

    But, that said, I do have to admit that my former professor was technically correct: There is relatively little in “The Corporation” that is revolutionary. It does not really call for worker’s democracy. It does not call for unionization. It does not call for the revolutionary occupation of factories like “The Take”.

    The closest thing that “The Corporation” calls for is for the government to enact certain reformist pieces of legislation curtailing the untrammelled power of corporations. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think that’s a bad policy decision at all. I’d be thrilled if the NDP embraced that policy decision a bit more enthusiastically.

    However I don’t think that’s a particularly revolutionary programme.

  3. 3 Dan 20 August, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    I remember watching The Take when it was shown at Bloor Cinema way back when it came out. Naomi Klein and her husband Avi Lewis were both at the theatre to do a Q & A after the film. While we were in line Naomi walked past me like, ten feet away and I wanted to shout “No Logo changed everything I thought I knew about politics and economics!” since it did, but my Toronto-bred stand-offishness got the best of me and I stayed silent.

    Anyway I’ve pestered lots of people to see this film since it came out. It’s a great demonstration of how we should not think the only alternative to capitalism is central planning nor should we presume that we are in the “end of history.” It’s also nice to have a progressive film that has a positive idea about what to do, I mean at the end of The Corporation I thought to myself, well, corporations suck, now what?

  4. 4 Alison 21 August, 2009 at 3:44 am

    Thanks for that, Paul. I saw it in the theatre, good to see it again.
    Here’s a companion lecture from an Argentinian financial analyst in which he argues that Argentina’s fast financial cycles of bubble and collapse will be our future.

  5. 5 Scott 21 August, 2009 at 6:48 am

    I agree that The Take is pretty awesome. Don’t you think, though, that she backs off a bit from her earlier radical politics in _The Shock Doctrine_? I mean, it’s still an incredibly important book and I still think she’s great, but it seemed much more clearly wedded to social democracy than her earlier work.

  6. 6 paulitics 21 August, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Hi Scott,

    I’m still reading Shock Doctrine, so I’m hesitant to offer an opinion about it before I’ve finished it. However, that said, one of the reasons why I found The Take so amazing is that it was so unexpected. In almost every interview, speech and article I’ve ever read by or about Naomi Klein, she’s always come across as little more than a New Democrat with a library card.

    The Take was different (at least in my opinion). The Take was a glimpse at something genuinely radical and revolutionary that I did not expect given her previous work.

    My initial impression of The Shock Doctrine (so far) is that it’s not intended so much as a normative work. In my view, this explains why it’s started to take off in academia even though it wasn’t published by a university press and it also explains why it lacks that revolutionary flare that I so love about The Take.

  7. 7 Ryan 21 August, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    This video does not tell you that economic growth increased from 1989 to 1994 by 35% of the GDP with the start of free market policies. The eventual problem was not a failure of capitalism, it was another failure of monetary policy.

  8. 9 Simon 26 August, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    I agree with Sean.

    “The Take” is an amazing documentary; a film that goes beyond criticizing capitalism by showing viable alternatives that are radically democratic, decentralized, and participatory. Truly inspiring.

    “The Shock Doctrine,” on the other hand, is quite tame in comparison. Naomi Klein has admitted herself that many people on the left thinks she doesn’t go far enough because the book is basically an argument for Keynesian economics. In that sense, it is normative, advocating social democratic reform instead of any revolutionary vision. She defended this position appealing to realism and pragmatism, which is surprising considering she has experienced very real alternatives in Argentina and elsewhere.

    I’ve seen “The Take” many times, one of the last of which was as a film student at York University where Avi Lewis came to talk about the film. When hearing him speak, I got the impression that the radicalism in the film was more his than Naomi’s. When comparing his journalistic work, social analysis, and political critique to Naomi’s, I find Lewis to be much more revolutionary than Klein.

    Perhaps Avi Lewis is the unsung hero here, a little more deserving of being seen in “Chomsky-esque territory.” It pains me to say this, too, when radical female intellectuals need more recognition in this world. Naomi is no Emma Goldman, though.

  9. 10 Simon 26 August, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    Sorry Scott; I meant to say I agree with you. I have no clue who this Sean fellow is I was talking about.

  10. 11 paulitics 27 August, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    Simon, I actually hadn’t considered that Avi Lewis was the source of the revolutionary greatness in “The Take”, but you present a very interesting hypothesis.

    I guess I just discounted Avi as the source since he is Stephen Lewis’s son and Stephen Lewis, of course, kicked all the true revolutionaries out of the NDP.

  11. 12 Simon 28 August, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    I must admit my hypothesis is somewhat anecdotal, based on hearing both Avi and Naomi talk on many occasions in person. In those experiences, I’ve found both to be generally very good, but Avi to be more critical. Avi’s consistently sharp and scathing journalism, compared to Naomi’s more pop-oriented criticism also informs my opinion.

    I certainly share your disappointment in Stephen Lewis for purging so much of the revolutionary socialist spirit out of the NDP (not to mention Avi’s grandfather, David Lewis, who did the same to the CCF), but I wouldn’t want to be too unfair on Avi just because of his family associations. Both Avi and Naomi come from relatively similar family backgrounds (Jewish, left-wing, academic, professional, social democratic, anti-communist). I think both Avi and Naomi are more radical than their families, but that radicalism is still limited by their relatively privileged experiences. Like most human beings, they seem split sometimes; on some occasions they act like pragmatic social democrats; at other times they embody an inspired sense of revolutionary vision. Either way, they are both important allies with those of us struggling for eco-social justice, whether revolutionary or not. At the same time, as Chomsky notes, there are so many people, whose names we don’t know, who are really pushing the movements forward from the ground up. They often don’t have the privilege to write books or make movies, but they are usually the most radical and revolutionary of them all. I like to imagine the invisible and visible revolutionaries are all part of one big social tapestry. It’s a comforting thought that helps when there’s so much hostility to social democrats and revolutionary socialists, alike.

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