human hardship since then. In this regard, the present spectacular ailure o neoliberalism presents the labour movement (and the let more generally) withan historic opportunity to challenge the long-term direction o the system.At the same time, however, there are immense threats and risks in thepresent moment. While crisis and breakdown open opportunities or dis-crediting the status quo, we cannot underestimate the determination o eliteswithin the present order not just to deend its main eatures, but to actually take advantage o a moment o crisis (even one o their
making) to pushor the deepening and extension o neoliberalism. In this way, workers ace adual threat rom the current crisis. First, they are exposed to the immediateeconomic and social costs o the recession itsel: lost jobs, lost incomes, losthomes, and in many cases lost lives. Second, and more lastingly, workers acethe risk that this moment could actually lead to structural changes that urtherdisempower workers and their organizations. In other words, ar rom conced-ing that there was anything wrong with the recipe they have been ollowing,neoliberal governments and their advocates will seize on the ear, conusion,and divisions caused by the crisis, as predicted by Klein,
to push or evenmore market-oriented measures – including more attacks on unions and col-lective bargaining. Unions will be hard-pressed to push back those regressiveattacks, let alone to make orward progress in reorming or dismantling someo neoliberalism’s worst eatures in light o its obvious ailure.Perhaps this is how to explain the strange juxtaposition whereby the labourmovement possesses a wonderul opportunity to put the guardians o neo-liberalism on the deensive or their ailures, yet it is unions themselves (notnancial speculators) acing the most intense attacks and public disapproval.Consider two recent instances in which Canadian unions were scapegoatedor economic problems that they clearly did not cause: the attacks on auto-workers unleashed during the bankruptcy restructuring o General Motorsand Chrysler, and the attacks on municipal workers in Windsor and Torontolaunched by municipal governments (who invoked budgetary pressuresresulting rom the broader economic decline to justiy their demands orconcessions). e unions in both cases were merely trying to hang onto pre- viously-negotiated compensation in the ace o the crisis; it was employer andgovernment demands or concessions that sparked the respective conronta-tions, not union demands or “more.” Yet it was the unions vilied as barriersto change, protectors o narrow special interests, and even – in wilder com-mentaries – as the very source o economic decline in the rst place. Mostworrying, this anti-union scapegoating clearly ound resonance amidst amajority segment o the wider public.Collective bargaining, o course, is never a popularity contest, and there isnothing new in the attempts o employers and governments to nger-point atunions, nor in the public expression o broader anti-union sentiment. It is a
Te Shock Doctrine: Te Rise of Disaster Capitalism
(New York 2007).