Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein trav­els across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, the United States, Britain, Greece, and Australia to witness the reality of disaster capitalism. He discovers how companies such as G4S, Serco, and Halliburton cash in on or­ganized misery in a hidden world of privatized detention centers, militarized private security, aid profiteering, and destructive mining.

Disaster has become big business. Talking to immigrants stuck in limbo in Britain or visiting immigration centers in America, Loewenstein maps the secret networks formed to help cor­porations bleed what profits they can from economic crisis. He debates with Western contractors in Afghanistan, meets the locals in post-earthquake Haiti, and in Greece finds a country at the mercy of vulture profiteers. In Papua New Guinea, he sees a local commu­nity forced to rebel against predatory resource companies and NGOs.

What emerges through Loewenstein’s re­porting is a dark history of multinational corpo­rations that, with the aid of media and political elites, have grown more powerful than national governments. In the twenty-first century, the vulnerable have become the world’s most valu­able commodity. Disaster Capitalism is published by Verso in 2015 and in paperback in January 2017.

Profits_of_doom_cover_350Vulture capitalism has seen the corporation become more powerful than the state, and yet its work is often done by stealth, supported by political and media elites. The result is privatised wars and outsourced detention centres, mining companies pillaging precious land in developing countries and struggling nations invaded by NGOs and the corporate dollar. Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and across Australia to witness the reality of this largely hidden world of privatised detention centres, outsourced aid, destructive resource wars and militarized private security. Who is involved and why? Can it be stopped? What are the alternatives in a globalised world? Profits of Doom, published in 2013 and released in an updated edition in 2014, challenges the fundamentals of our unsustainable way of life and the money-making imperatives driving it. It is released in an updated edition in 2014.
forgodssakecover Four Australian thinkers come together to ask and answer the big questions, such as: What is the nature of the universe? Doesn't religion cause most of the conflict in the world? And Where do we find hope?   We are introduced to different belief systems – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – and to the argument that atheism, like organised religion, has its own compelling logic. And we gain insight into the life events that led each author to their current position.   Jane Caro flirted briefly with spiritual belief, inspired by 19th century literary heroines such as Elizabeth Gaskell and the Bronte sisters. Antony Loewenstein is proudly culturally, yet unconventionally, Jewish. Simon Smart is firmly and resolutely a Christian, but one who has had some of his most profound spiritual moments while surfing. Rachel Woodlock grew up in the alternative embrace of Baha'i belief but became entranced by its older parent religion, Islam.   Provocative, informative and passionately argued, For God's Sakepublished in 2013, encourages us to accept religious differences, but to also challenge more vigorously the beliefs that create discord.  
After Zionism, published in 2012 and 2013 with co-editor Ahmed Moor, brings together some of the world s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution. Time has run out for the two-state solution because of the unending and permanent Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different, unified future. Progressive and realist ideas are at last gaining a foothold in the discourse, while those influenced by the colonial era have been discredited or abandoned. Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably. This daring and timely collection includes essays by Omar Barghouti, Jonathan Cook, Joseph Dana, Jeremiah Haber, Jeff Halper, Ghada Karmi, Antony Loewenstein, Saree Makdisi, John Mearsheimer, Ahmed Moor, Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy and Phil Weiss.
The 2008 financial crisis opened the door for a bold, progressive social movement. But despite widespread revulsion at economic inequity and political opportunism, after the crash very little has changed. Has the Left failed? What agenda should progressives pursue? And what alternatives do they dare to imagine? Left Turn, published by Melbourne University Press in 2012 and co-edited with Jeff Sparrow, is aimed at the many Australians disillusioned with the political process. It includes passionate and challenging contributions by a diverse range of writers, thinkers and politicians, from Larissa Berendht and Christos Tsiolkas to Guy Rundle and Lee Rhiannon. These essays offer perspectives largely excluded from the mainstream. They offer possibilities for resistance and for a renewed struggle for change.
The Blogging Revolution, released by Melbourne University Press in 2008, is a colourful and revelatory account of bloggers around the globe why live and write under repressive regimes - many of them risking their lives in doing so. Antony Loewenstein's travels take him to private parties in Iran and Egypt, internet cafes in Saudi Arabia and Damascus, to the homes of Cuban dissidents and into newspaper offices in Beijing, where he discovers the ways in which the internet is threatening the ruld of governments. Through first-hand investigations, he reveals the complicity of Western multinationals in assisting the restriction of information in these countries and how bloggers are leading the charge for change. The blogging revolution is a superb examination about the nature of repression in the twenty-first century and the power of brave individuals to overcome it. It was released in an updated edition in 2011, post the Arab revolutions, and an updated Indian print version in 2011.
The best-selling book on the Israel/Palestine conflict, My Israel Question - on Jewish identity, the Zionist lobby, reporting from Palestine and future Middle East directions - was released by Melbourne University Press in 2006. A new, updated edition was released in 2007 (and reprinted again in 2008). The book was short-listed for the 2007 NSW Premier's Literary Award. Another fully updated, third edition was published in 2009. It was released in all e-book formats in 2011. An updated and translated edition was published in Arabic in 2012.

Continental shift

My following cover story appears in this week’s Big Issue (June 5-20):

Latin America is turning left, and one man in particular is leading the charge

During the 1980s, Ronald Reagan treated Latin and Central America as killing fields against an imagined Communist threat. According to author and New York University professor Greg Grandin, US allies in Central America during Reagan’s presidency killed more than 300,000 people, tortured hundreds of thousands and drove millions into exile.

This background is essential to appreciate the reasons behind the rise of anti-US sentiment in the region. From Peru to Venezuela and Chile to Bolivia, the wholesale rejection of Washington’s economic, social, military and political agenda has created a leftist resurgence, largely ignored or shunned in the West. “Today, roughly 300 million of Latin America’s 520 million citizens live under governments that either want to reform the Washington Consensus (a euphemism for the mix of punishing fiscal authority, privatisation and market liberalisation that has produced staggering levels of poverty and inequality over the past three decades) or abolish it altogether and create a new, more equitable global economy,” says Grandin.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is the unofficial leader of the new brigade. A former military man, he has been democratically elected on a platform of fairly redistributing the country’s vast oil wealth. Unlike other Latin American nations, Venezuela’s press is free and robust. And though there are some issues with corruption and the rule of law it is not an autocratic state, as Chavez’s critics constantly claim. In fact, the charismatic Venezuelan leader is detested in Washington, London and Canberra simply because he dares to imagine a world without US military and economic imperialism.

“This century will see the end of American imperialism”, Chavez said during a recent visit to Vienna. “For every pig the day arrives for slaughter. For the pig of American imperialism, that time has come.” He also rejects policies implemented by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), saying that they have created only misery for his people. Under Chavez, the majority of Venezuelans now enjoy free healthcare, subsidized food and a constitutionally endorsed policy of quality education for all.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has compared Chavez to Hitler (although the administration backed away from TV evangelist Pat Robertson’s call for Chavez to be assassinated), while the Venezuelan President has called George W. Bush “Mr Danger.” When British Prime Minister Tony Blair advised Chavez in February this year to “abide by the rules of the international community” – namely by granting Western multinationals the right to own and control Latin America’s natural resources – Chavez didn’t hold back. “Tony Blair”, he said, “you have no moral right to tell anyone to respect international laws, as you have shown no respect for them, aligning yourself with ‘Mr Danger’ and trampling on the people of Iraq.”

The US supported a failed coup against Chavez in 2002 and has been accused of trying to destabilise his government (and even, by Chavez himself, of having plans to invade the country.) It recently imposed a ban on arms sales to Venezuela, accusing Chavez of having an “ideological affinity” with leftist guerrilla groups in Latin America.

Yet it’s Chavez, not Bush, who has been vilified by the Western, mainstream media. As British media watchdog Medialens notes, BBC TV often refers to the “controversial left-wing president Hugo Chavez.” Is Bush ever the “controversial right-wing president?” And is Chavez really more controversial than the man who illegally invaded Iraq? In March this year, Britain’s Channel 4 produced a report that could have been written by the US State Department itself: “He [Chavez] is in danger of joining a rogue’s gallery of dictators and despots – Washington’s latest Latin nightmare.” In April, the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl referred to the “perverted logic of Chavez’s court system” and claimed the President has never enjoyed overwhelming support. (Diehl conveniently overlooks the fact that most reliable opinion polls gauge Chavez’s approval rating to be almost 80%, which is far higher than the vast majority of leaders in Western democracies.) In May, an Associated Press story alleged that Chavez was agitating for 25-year terms, when in reality he had simply questioned the right of Venezuela’s opposition to continually boycott the electoral process.

Like Chavez, Argentina’s President Nestor Kirchner has accused the IMF of imposing economic policies in the 1990s that impoverished his people. The Argentine economy is now growing at more than 8% annually, however, and Kirchner has established warm ties with Venezuela. Uruguay is also moving forward, with recent rebounds after years of stagnation. Attracted to the Chavez idea of regional provision of natural resources, Uruguay’s Socialist President Tabare Vazquez has begun talks to establish a transcontinental gas pipeline for Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia.

Bolivia, Latin America’s poorest nation, is another country undergoing a vast ideological shift. President Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous leader, has just renationalised the country’s natural gas and petroleum resources. “Now the gas and oil that flows from our land will no longer belong to foreigners,” he declared. Morales has also signed a people’s trade agreement with Cuba and Venezuela in an attempt to create a self-reliant region in opposition to US-led free trade.

As American author and activist Noam Chomsky sees it, Washington’s dictatorial style towards Latin America is coming back to haunt the superpower. “Many indigenous people apparently do not see any reason why their lives, societies and cultures should be disrupted or destroyed so that New Yorkers can sit in their SUVs in traffic gridlock”, Chomsky says.

In the 1980s and ‘90s, state-owned companies throughout Central and Latin America were sold. Foreign capital was sought. Government spending and regulation was cut. But the new dawn never arrived. The lives of average citizens did not improve. Instead, economic growth stagnated and Western multinationals got rich. And now, as Morales and his counterparts are discovering, there is a political price to be paid for disobeying US policy. Soon after Morales renationalised his country’s gas and oil resources, the Wall Street Journal warned foreign investors that Morales and Chavez were “playing chicken with foreign oil companies.” Implicit in the article was that Bolivians had no right to restrict access to their natural resources, and that multinationals have the right to plunder whatever they please.

The only country in Latin America that retains strong connections with Washington is Columbia. With an economy bolstered by both cocaine and vast US military aid, the country has been repeatedly accused of colluding with paramilitaries to kill civilians. The so-called “war on drugs” has continued for years with few concrete results, aside from citizens that are angry at the US for assisting the destruction of their coca crops. At least 3000 people are killed every year in the seemingly endless violence. Cocaine profits have certainly distorted the nation’s progress, though the US is keen to maintain at least one reliable and compliant ally in the region.

Whereas in the past the US wouldn’t think twice about supporting military coups and invasion, today’s Latin America is an altogether more independent and robust beast. The rise of popular movements – literally millions of people demanding more access to their country’s resources – is guaranteed to scare Western nations. After all, when was the last time Australians rose up in their millions to demand fairer access to health and education services?

Britain’s Independent, a supposedly liberal newspaper, recently published an article on the region, headed “Should we be worried by the rise of the populist left in South America?” Its author, David Usborne, explained that energy supplies to the West may be disrupted, “populist policies” may not be economically sustainable and Latin America may be “heading towards collapse.” And what of the people of the region and their needs and desires? Usborne didn’t mention them, instead worrying himself silly over the welfare of the elites in Britain and the US. Rather than present an honest analysis of Latin America, complete with the devastating role played by the US over the last decades, Usborne was content to rehash press releases from the alarmist British Foreign Office.

Meanwhile, Washington’s reputation in the region worsens. According to a recent poll by the non-partisan polling group Latinobarometro, three out of five Latin Americans distrust the US. And a US poll found fewer than 20% of Latin American elites regard Bush favourably. It seems the US President’s ineptitude has been the perfect gift for the Chavez revolution.

The Bush administration’s Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Karen Hughes, travelled around Latin America in April in a seemingly futile attempt to improve the image of the US. “It’s not about communications”, said one Chilean of Hughes’s trip. [Latin Americans] want to be considered equals.”

With Latin America largely ignored in Australia, the mainstream media are failing in their duty to acknowledge a genuine shift in regional thinking. Untamed markets have been controlled and social justice is now a mainstay in countries more used to undemocratic institutions funded and supported by Washington. By proving that an anti-poverty agenda can be an electoral winner, leaders such as Hugo Chavez have given hope to millions of working men and women. It seems likely that other Latin American nations will follow the leftist bent, further eroding negative US influence, and as the world’s only superpower loses its grip on Latin America, new alliances offer alternatives to yesterday’s failed policies.

one comment ↪