Friday, October 14, 2011

Picking on Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky is great. Manufacturing Consent is a masterful look at how the mainstream media in America subtly and not so subtly serves the interests of the state and its corporate puppeteers. He has long been one of the most trenchant critics of the U.S. empire, a fact that's led to him to be ostracized from respectable political discourse – good riddance – and to be ridiculed by Weekly Standard neocons and Mother Jones liberals alike.

But – and with effusive praise like that, you just had to know there'd be a “but” – because I think he's generally on the side of Truth and Justice, like a relative or loved one (not always the same thing) he's thus open to more withering criticism from yours truly than your average tenured professor, Melissa Harris-Perry excepted.

My chief issue with Uncle Noam comes down to the fact that, while his analysis of the state often charms this anarchist's black heart, his professed allegiance to anarchism as a philosophy often appears like a lot of folks' professed Catholicism: something one claims allegiance to in order to keep up appearances – be it to before one's radical readers or just dear mother – but which one doesn't think twice about on weekdays, outside of May Day or Christmas.

By that I mean, while Chomsky professes anarchy to be his end-goal, his strategy on how to get there doesn't strike me as substantively different than the Marxist-Leninists he mocks. That is, he views the state as a necessary bulwark against the privations of corporate capitalism; a necessary evil that ought to be maintained and even strengthened in order to prevent private tyranny. But, like the communist he derides for believing the dictatorship of the proletariat – or rather, the dictatorship of the Party – will voluntary wither away and cede power to a society of anarchists, Chomsky never really elaborates on how to get from a system of centralized power and coercion to a decentralized world of consensus.

"What, is the state just going to give up that power all on its own?" Chomsky might witheringly ask.

Take the good professor's response when asked about “the prospects for realizing anarchism in our society”:
Prospects for freedom and justice are limitless. The steps we should take depend on what we are trying to achieve. There are, and can be, no general answers. The questions are wrongly put. I am reminded of a nice slogan of the rural workers' movement in Brazil (from which I have just returned): they say that they must expand the floor of the cage, until the point when they can break the bars. At times, that even requires defense of the cage against even worse predators outside: defense of illegitimate state power against predatory private tyranny in the United States today, for example, a point that should be obvious to any person committed to justice and freedom -- anyone, for example, who thinks that children should have food to eat -- but that seems difficult for many people who regard themselves as libertarians and anarchists to comprehend. That is one of the self-destructive and irrational impulses of decent people who consider themselves to be on the left, in my opinion, separating them in practice from the lives and legitimate aspirations of suffering people.
Insofar as Chomsky asserts that there is no one easy, “right” answer to this question, I agree. While I think it's important to lay out a vision for the world you would to build, I personally see anarchism as a process: I would like to minimize the centralization of power and use of coercion in society, as I believe both lead to great evils in the hands of flawed, fallible human beings. In that sense, I see the use of co-ops in Nicaragua's Ometepe, for instance, as an example of anarchism in actiom. a significant step toward a world based on consensus, no coercion, where people can be free and self-reliant, dependent on neither politicians nor capitalists.

At the same time, though, I take issue with Chomsky answering a question on how to realize anarchism almost entirely with an attack on his fellow anarchists. And I find particularly irksome his seeming acceptance of the left-liberal framing of the state as the common person's last best defense against corporate power. I believe Chomsky himself would admit – and the much less radical, left-liberal economist Dean Baker details in his latest book – that it is the state which is in fact the chief enabler of that power, from “intellectual property” laws that guarantee monopoly profits to drug companies to the doctrine of “corporate personhood” that enables those very companies to skirt full financial and legal responsibility for their actions.

As an anarchist, Chomsky ought to have detailed why the divide between “public” and “private” power is less than meet the eye; that, in fact, the state and corporation collude to screw the public and to redistribute wealth from the lower classes to the wealthy; that, in fact, there is no real distinction between the two at all. The Federal Reserve is a perfect example of this: a government-chartered institution that is almost entirely run by the quasi-private banking industry to -- surprise! -- the benefit of bankers.

While those who would remove limits on corporate power while keeping in place the privileges are worth criticizing, Chomsky attacks “libertarians and anarchists” with far too wide a brush, most irksomely by deploying a red-flag raising phrase like “a point that should be obvious” and a groan-inducing appeal to those who “think children should have food to eat.” Really, Noam?

My other point of contention is Chomsky's contribution to the sort of political in-fighting he often decries, namely his denunciation of anarcho-capitalism, a system that he says, “if ever implemented, would lead to forms of tyranny and oppression that have few counterparts in human history.”

First things first: I'm no anarcho-capitalist. I think those who adopt that label often have an almost self-parodying view of the role markets and the profit motive play in society, every potential problem that might arise discussed by pointing to how a private company could meet Social Demand X or Y, complete with the appropriate citation of some book by Murray Rothbard. Many, though not all, seem to leave no room for other forms of social cooperation, anything that doesn't involve a profit appearing suspiciously commie. And many do not seem to have ever questioned the moral basis for private property and the role the state has played in upholding that particular institution – and in determining who has come to hold property – and whether it could truly be maintained in a world free of coercion and the subsidy of state protection.

I also recognize that it's just a label; that some anarcho-capitalists or market anarchists could very well read the preceding paragraph while nodding their heads. I also recognize that, differences aside, I have a lot in common with these people. Indeed, Chomsky himself admits – when not suggesting anarcho-capitalism would be on par with the evils of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia – that he finds himself “in substantial agreement with people who consider themselves anarcho-capitalists on a whole range of issues,” and that for awhile they were the only ones he would publish his work. He also concedes that there may very well be a role for markets in his ideal anarchist world.

So why the over-the-top, tyranny “with few counterparts in human history” denunciation? While I'm no stranger to hyperbole, and I too have my qualms with anarcho-capitalists, I find it hard to believe that, at its worst, an an-cap world would be any more tyrannical than the one we have now, what with its state-privileged corporate monopolies and standing armies and massive prison complexes. Chomsky's critique, then – and the mirror image attack on anarcho-syndicalism from the clowns at the Mises Institute – strikes me as not unlike the bickering between Monty Python's Judean People's Front and the People's Front of Judea, where radicals that agree on 90 percent of the issues hate each other more than their shared enemy: the corporate state. Or was it the Romans?

Anarchists should be free to criticize other anarchists. Debate is good and keeps people honest. But let's not lose sight of the common foe: coercion, be it perpetrated by state or corporation, recognizing, I would add, that you can't have the latter without the former. Sure, we can and should debate the merits of syndicalism and the wisdom of municipal versus privatized police forces. But guys! We're a long way from there. We have a lot of coercion to remove from society before we get to the point where those debates will have real world consequences. We can discuss the workability of everyone's desired dream anarchist world as soon as we, say, live in a world where U.S. military bases are only to be found in the United States, okay?

And Noam, buddy: let's not forget, because I know you're aware of this, that right now at this moment the state is the chief deployer of coercion and, far from its foe, the chief enabler of corporate power. No, let's not do away with the social safety net or regulations that, however feebly, restrict corporate excess, at least not without first doing away with corporate privilege. But let's also not forget that, historically, increasing the power of the state as you would like to do has not been found conducive with minimizing coercion or corporate power in society. And as for reducing that power once you've increased it: ask your Marxist-Leninist friends how that worked out.

25 comments:

  1. Philosophy prof. Roderick Long posted a similar critique of Chomsky several years back. http://praxeology.net/aotp.htm#2 And while Long is (or was) affiliated with the Mises institute, I'd hesitate to refer to him as ancap.

    I think the collusion and symbiosis is pretty obvious, and can't really figure out why Chomsky is so intent on seeing them as separate and opposing. I mean, Monsanto is institutionalized evil, but it isn't like Monsanto grants itself patents. Monsanto doesn't use its own judicial system to legislate independent, small farmers out of existence.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Brian Drake10:50 AM

    Charles,

    Good post and critique of Chomsky. While it is true that states are often directed by "corporations", it is the mechanism of the state that has enabled the slaughter of hundreds of millions, not any particular structure of business. I'm not aware of Starbucks or Microsoft privately engaging in genocide or even the caging of large numbers of people. And yet, even in more "benign" states like Switzerland, there is a standing death threat against millions of people - "obey the 'law' or we will kill you". The idea that the state is some sort of bulwark against the tyranny of non-state actors is so laughable, it seems hard to accept anyone truly believes it and thus I cynically suspect it's raised simply to provide cover for a desire to use the coercion of the state for simply a different set of goals.

    I also agree that the goal of anarchists should be to ultimately eliminate the state, as their "name" would imply.

    When I first realized anarchism, I was confused by the further subdivision of the concept into the various "anarcho-" strains. Since I arrived at anarchism through the study of liberty (libertarianism), I was also confused by the split of "left-" vs "right-" libertarianism.

    It seems to me, that these divisions are unnecessary baggage that have no proper place in anarchist philosophy. Each "camp" seems to have more to do with personal preference than the more fundamental question on the role of coercion in human conduct. If the common realization of anarchists is that no one should be forced to the will of another, then that implies we're all "free" to follow our own preferences within the boundaries of not enforcing our will on others.

    And thus, whatever comes after the "anarcho-" prefix, seems not to be a philosophical divide, but a pre-declaration of the preferred method of social cooperation one plans to engage in when they are unrestrained in pursuing their own preferences - i.e., when the state is abolished.

    If we all determined it was just that human beings not be prevented by force from eating ice cream, we'd all be "icecreamfreedomists". Declaring oneself a "chocolate-icecreamfreedomist" or an advocate of "strawberry-icecreamfreedomism" seems redundant and unnecessarily confusing.

    Unless, of course, the "icecreamfreedom" part is contingent on the flavor choice, and thus really just a shallow ruse by the "chocolateists" to enforce their own preferences on others.

    Likewise, if the syndicalists will use organized force to prevent the voluntary establishment of firms employing hierarchical structure or the private accumulation of capital through voluntary means (or inversely, if the "capitalists" use violence to prevent worker-owned factories), then I see the "anarcho-" prefix as a ruse for the philosophy of "you can have freedom, as long as you act the way I want you to act", which is of course simply "statism" by another name. That's not an accusation I'm leveling at anyone in particular, just a caveat I think is important to resolve before any solidarity among anarchists can be agreed on. In other words, I see there is indeed a common ground among any "anarcho-__________" as long as the prefix is genuine. But if the prefix is secondary (and thus disposable) to pursuit of the suffix, I don't see an obvious common ground.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Chomsky's a cunning wordsmith. The quoted block of rhetoric is a lot of words saying very, very little. The centerpieces are the emotional points... a derision, and a heart-string-pulling enticement to think of the children!... standard Democratic Party fare, really.

    He gives so much, then he takes a very little bit away. The very little bit, however, is pivotal.

    As you wisely observe.

    Nice work, Charles.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Brian Drake11:15 AM

    "Many, though not all, seem to leave no room for other forms of social cooperation, anything that doesn't involve a profit appearing suspiciously commie. And many do not seem to have ever questioned the moral basis for private property and the role the state has played in upholding that particular institution – and in determining who has come to hold property – and whether it could truly be maintained in a world free of coercion and the subsidy of state protection."

    Can you name any names? Much of my journey towards understanding liberty was influenced by those claiming the label "anarcho-capitalist" and the only evidence I have to the persons you describe is in the form of generalized accusation, such as the one you make, not actual encounter. There's not a single writer at, say, the Mises Institute that I've ever read advocating such a view (that non-profit forms of social cooperation are suspicious or have no room in an 'ancap' society, or that the state's version of 'private property' is moral). No one I've ever met or interacted with online, identifying themselves as "libertarian" or "ancap" has ever revealed they hold these views (quite the opposite). And yet the assertion is that "many, though not all" fit this accusation. Where are these "many" ancaps you refer to?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Brian,

    Take any discussion over enforcing contracts and providing policing. Invariably, the debate becomes a Rothbardian discussion of competition between various Pinkerton-type private police forces and arbitration courts, never seeming to consider the prospect of a non-profit community model.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I also recall an an-cap site back in the day refusing to run a piece of mine about the EZLN in Mexico -- http://charliedavis.blogspot.com/2006/02/emiliano-zapata-and-ezln-radical.html -- because the group struck the editor as "too socialist," its view of a less coercive society insufficiently reliant on markets and the profit motive.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I like to think of Noam as the blogosphere 1.0, meaning that the range of material he covered and his contrary interpretation - as well as withering critiques of holding what those in or serving power say vs. what others observe - was essentially what we are all collectively doing online in our own bits and pieces. Impressive that he was a one man aggregator working with printed materials in his time.

    Your broader critique is dead on. I think it cuts to another divide. Chomsky's mind is wholly geared in Cartesian, deterministic thought processes. He is and considers himself a scientist and scientific thinker first and foremost. Within that mindset, there is always a plan, program, set of answers, and objectively observable facts that lead to objective answers. With a perfect enough intellectual or scientific model, the world, and the people living in that world can be understood, predicted, and organized. Its the same premise that is at the heart of panoptic, capitalist, communist, industrialist and other programs. That's my take on him, at any rate. And I think your trenchant analysis is right in line with what I am saying.

    That is the most heartening thing about OWS, in my view, their explicit rejection of organizing principles, goals, programs, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  8. "By that I mean, while Chomsky professes anarchy to be his end-goal, his strategy on how to get there doesn't strike me as substantively different than the Marxist-Leninists he mocks."

    Honest question here - what, exactly, is the strategy you'd endorse, as a "true" anarchist? Reading you, or IOZ, I see a lot of criticism of Person-X-on-the-left and Person-Y-on-the-left for being insufficiently anarchist, but... what, exactly, does sufficient anarchism look like? What is it supposed to actually do? Not in slogans, but in concrete steps, as a strategy. I'm not saying this to nitpick you or piss you off, but out a sense of genuine exhaustion and frustration.

    I came to leftism equally from anarchism and Marxism, and was genuinely more sympathetic to anarchism until I met and interacted with actual anarchists, whose idea of resistance appeared to consist of arranging anarchist-themed movie nights and sulking together. The Marxists I've met, on the other hand, are at least attempting to do something concrete - joining in solidarity with workers' struggles, organizing against the closing and privatization of public schools, trying to fight back against police brutality, etc. - things that have concrete significance for me. When the state is getting ready to gut Medicaid, the local Marxists are organizing people against it; the local anarchists are like, ehhhh, whatever, man, that's, like, the state. And the fact that actual human beings might need the medicine that provides is more than just a theoretical concern.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Christopher,

    I never said I was a "true" anarchist and that Chomsky wasn't. In fact, I mocked the idea there is one right and true path to utopia.

    For my thoughts on what anarchy means to me, I suggest you follow the link I included in the piece to explain just that, regarding co-ops and Ometepe: charliedavis.blogspot.com/2011/09/anarchy-and-ometepe.html

    ReplyDelete
  10. I also really wonder how many of the people here who rhapsodize about "the explicit rejection of organizing principles, goals, programs, etc." in OWS have actually joined in a local Occupy movement. I've been going to the GAs for my local Occupy nearly every day (I've missed two) for the last week and a half, and I encourage everyone who can to do so. And while I'm still pretty excited about the potential, all illusions about its "leaderlessness" and its rejection of "organization" fell away about two days into the thing. For all the talk about "rejection of organization," there is, in fact, a very clear organization - it's just, so far, a very bumbling, ineffective organization. For all the talk about "leaderlessness", there are obvious leaders - they're just unofficial, unelected, unaccountable leaders, who act without sanction from the group. It's incredibly undemocratic, and the delusion that we're all equals, that we all have the same say in this has been crippling.

    The lack of goals and principles has hardly been encouraging, either - it's just ensured that as things slog onward, the group's politics turn from radical into liberal, capital/authoritarian-friendly mush. There are people in our GA who insist that the police are part of "the 99%" - that city officials are part of "the 99%," as well as the mayor and the media; that racists, sexists, homophobes and bigots all deserve their place in the movement because they are all, after all, part of "the 99%"; that we should not occupy the place we want to occupy without a permit from the city because to do so would be "needlessly antagonistic."

    That's what comes of not having goals or principles. You cede the movement to those who have no fucking principles.

    ReplyDelete
  11. But look, Charles, the opt-out approach doesn't change the world, it only skips out of it. It doesn't overthrow capitalism, it only buys a brief respite from it. How does living in a co-op stop the US war machine, much less climate change? How does hiding from the state stop the state from gobbling the rest of the world - or, for that matter, gobbling me, once it gets around to doing so?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Who's talking about opting out? I'm talking about direct action: building the world you want to live in without waiting for some politician to hand it to you. And coops like the ones in Nicaragua and around the world are a way to do that: a way to build a sustainable, self-sufficient society not dependent on politicians or capitalists -- and thus creating a real world alternative for those who would rather not contribute to the evils of war or environmental destruction. It's certainly a hell of a lot more effective than some of the other options I've heard people discuss and it makes a direct impact on people's lives for the better. It's not the only way to affect change, but it's an important one -- and more effective than, say, what the Netroots folks have proposed.

    Protesting those who stand in the way of social change is another important aspect. It's why I bother critiquing state/corporate propaganda instead of ditching my laptop for a margarita. It's why when I lived in DC I went to all the antiwar rallies, even when they began to dwindle when The One came to office. That's not opting out.

    ReplyDelete
  13. The way I see it, you won't overthrow capitalism (or any entrenched power structure) by confronting it head-on. You need a siege mentality. Just like a siege of a fortress, you do your work on the outside, never actually having to confront the enemy directly. Sure, sappers can weaken the walls, but then you'll still be left with a bloody fight on your hands once they're breached, and no guarantee of victory still. The best way is to surround it and cut it off from the outside: from what it needs to survive. Building alternative institutions that emphasize mutual aid, and social interaction rather than political. Power shift rather than power struggle.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Christopher M -

    I feel your pain.

    Your experience of your local Occupy sounds like my experience of non-hierachical groups in the past. People do tend to build hierarchies from social dynamics and, as you say, the resulting authorities are unaccountable. What you have in the worst cases is politics + high school lunch cafeteria. Also stealing, in my experience.

    I've participated in one General Assembly at Occupy Wall Street and observed several others and it seemed that some of this horizontal leadership stuff they've borrowed from Spain works against the kind of problems you mention. However, I would have to agree that the end result here in New York sounds very much like what you're confronting. Occupy LA sounds absolutely bizarre in the peace it is happily making with cops and capitalism.

    As for Marxists being better allies than anarchists, I don't really have enough experience to know. Whenever I decide to do anything with any sort of lefts in New York, I'm generally struck by what a bunch of disorganized blowhards and cranks they are. Theoretically, at least, yeah, I prefer Marxists, because you don't have to debate them on whether or not things like national health insurance are worthy efforts. But from where I sit, you're generally confronted on all sides by people who seem incapable or unwilling to do just about anything except gab.

    I can't really fault people at all for not wanting to do certain types of activism since I don't fault people for staying away from politics altogether. It seems perfectly right for anarchists to build alternative structures if they really can't see any moral reason for engaging with the state, even though I disagree with them on this. What I don't really understand are the ones who sign on for something like #OWS, that takes on the signifiers of a policy-directed protest - it's basically a big sit-in - but then dismisses the idea of policy demands because they legitimize the policy makers. I mean, really, what is a sit-in that doesn't make conditions for not sitting anymore?

    This idea, that you hear among some of the faithful - that OWS constitutes a remedy by being a living example of a self-sustaining, leaderless, egalitarian alternative to government bodies - would be only slightly less stupid if it weren't actually dependent on donations for food, power, computers and the goodwill of local businesses who let them use their toilets.

    Right now it seems all real meaning and impact is coming from outsiders interpreting and interacting with the general anti-bankster message and the showdowns with cops. Most of the marching, agitating and site-protecting is being done by people who read a non-horizontal call from the AFL-CIO to get down to Zucotti Park to stand against the cops or join a march organized by Move On. When those folks aren't around there's very little to warm the revolutionary heart and that's a very kind way of putting it.

    ReplyDelete
  15. PS: Nice one, Charles, though I think the the last sentence about Marxist-Leninism may be as underhanded as Noam's bit about feeding children.

    I think if you apply Noam and Ed Herman's Propaganda Model to Noam himself, you might conclude that he gets to keep his lofty place just inside the margins because, like so many lefts, he makes a religion of demonizing any faction with whom a tactical alliance might genuinely pose a challenge to state power as currently constituted. Hence he hates Marxists on the left and an-caps on the right and the result is that he's objectively a Democrat.

    Noam's legacy appears to be a gazillion busy fingers parsing media for lies and hypocrisy. That's necessary, I suppose, because a new sucker is born every few seconds, but it has its limits.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Christopher M.:
    Your argument as I read it sounds like the Liberal one. References to "true" or "sufficient" are plentiful in their jargon, but exclusively from the likes of those making claim to ownership of someone else's politics (re: Gore-ists vs. Nader-ites as a classic example).

    Nowhere does Charles Davis accuse Chomsky of being insufficiently anarchist, not even in the cherry-picked quote you begin your comment with.

    It sounds frightfully like the suggestion from American liberals to anyone who smells vaguely "left" but doesn't support Democrats: You belong to us, anything else is betrayal.

    And first you suggest that the author proposes no alternative, only to then go on to criticize it as being an opt-out.

    But co-ops, squats communities, and house projects are the only solution that works for someone who wants to live a functional autonomic life within a community AND NOT AT THE SAME TIME SUPPORT THE US WAR MACHINE OR CONTRIBUTE TO CLIMATE CHANGE.

    I suppose that you would be O.K. with a co-op as long as it had a military to keep the state from gobbling you up?

    Look, I'm sure you agree that we cannot force others to behave the way we want them to. And I seriously mean no disrespect, but it sounds to me like you are the one whose alternative is insufficient.

    ReplyDelete
  17. ohtarzie,

    Maybe it's underhanded, but I didn't intend it as so: I'm just genuinely a bit confused as to how Chomsky's call for increasing state power before decreasing it differs from the Marxist-Leninist position of which he himself is critical.

    I mean, every good Marxist-Leninist is nominally an anarchist too, but they believe anarchy can only come after a social transformation brought on by an increase in state power in the form of a dictatorship of the proletariat, which in practice means the Communist Party. In the real world, of course, those wielding state power are loathe to surrender it, so I'd like to know how Chomsky proposes confronting that problem.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Charles:

    Fair enough, I'm just quibbling. But looking at real world examples of Marxist Leninism to condemn it in theory is like using Somalia against anarchism. It's in league with reactionary corporatist slights. Every socialist revolution has had to contend with a capitalist empire ruthlessly dedicated to undermining it.

    I'm not one of the faithful. I'm just saying it's not a really sound reply. I don't think anarchists or Marxists have much to gain by talking fallacies at each other.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Oh Tarzie,

    The argument against smearing anarchism with the example of Somalia is that Somalia isn't an example of anarchism. By contrast, the Soviet Union, for instance, was avowedly Marxist-Leninist, a claim that was broadly accepted by communists the world over. And it didn't turn out so hot. I don't think it's cheap to use real world examples to critique theory; I think it's essential. We just need to ensure those examples comport with the theories people are proposing, and in the case of an ideology that advocates dictatorship as a "transition" to anarchy as Marxist-Leninism does, I think it's apt to note that hasn't worked out as theorized.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Sigh. So hard not to argue over this though I know shouldn't. This is all I'm going to say:

    Not everyone agrees on what dictatorship of the proletarian means and I don't recall everyone agreeing for very long that Soviet Communism was true Marxist Leninism. And as I said, they were under constant attack from capitalism.

    It's a bad example in exactly the same way Somalia's a bad example. Keep using it if you like, but it's a total singing to the chorus kind of deal.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Fair enough. But since I don't know when to stop either, I'll just add: those wielding state power typically aren't all that interested in giving it up. So insofar as folks like Chomsky and those who identify as Marxist-Leninists advocate increasing state power, even just for "temporary" periods, I'm deeply skeptical it will turn out as hoped.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Oh Tarzie: And as I said, they were under constant attack from capitalism.

    ... which may explain something. But it doesn't explain why the Che Ka spent its first month in Moscow imprisoning hundreds and murdering dozens of anti-capitalist Anarchists.

    ReplyDelete
  23. jcapan4:44 PM

    "By contrast, the Soviet Union, for instance, was avowedly Marxist-Leninist, a claim that was broadly accepted by communists the world over."

    As Terry Eagleton put it:

    "What perished in the Soviet Union was Marxist only in the sense that the Inquisition was Christian."

    Stalinism was born out of Lenin's own thirst for power. From it's onset, the USSR was an abomination of Marxism.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Two things:

    First, if anyone can tell me what Chomsky really thinks about Palestine, I'd really like to know, because I can't make any sense of it.

    Second, about hidden leaders at Occupy Wall Street and other occupations as described by Christopher M. and ohtarsie, this is a serious problem one that the Movement for a New Society tried to explicitly address in the 1970s and early 1980s. MNS was a radical, non-violent, non-hierarchical group that was formed predominately by Quakers involved in the antiwar and civil rights movements of the 1960s.

    For this reason, several participants concluded that when people with particular abilities found themselves repeatedly doing certain tasks, regardless of how they had been assigned to others, it should be acknowledged, instead of subjecting these people to criticism whenever it was expedient for others do so.

    Additionally, MNS pioneered a lot of consensus decision making practices, but, interestingly, did not conclude that consensus was required in all instances, because, after all, sometimes a decision just has to be made.

    I know it is not my place, but if there is one book that the people involved in OWS should read, it is "Oppose and Propose!", a short book recently released by AK Press about the history of MNS, and how its experiences have special relevance today.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Richard, I think he is still a Zionist in the sense he was before Israeli statehood, a sort of "cultural Zionism." He was happy enough with emigration to Palestine, but not the ethnic cleansing and apartheid that accompanied it.

    About a year ago, I had an opportunity to hear him answer questions one-on-one after a talk, and noted the following points.

    One guy repeatedly asked him variants on "Is it possible to reclaim or save Zionism to conform to Buber's views." I remember being frustrated by the way he kept on it. Chomsky said nothing that impressed me about it; I may be reading my own inclinations into my memory, but I think he felt it was irrelevant now.

    People asked him about a binational solution (an anarchist solution wasn't mentioned). Chomsky called it "pie in the sky." He said it was a laudable ultimate goal, but right now people should be focused on a two-state solution.

    A young Israeli from Anarchists against the Wall asked him about BDS. Chomsky called it hypocritical and fuel for the Dershowitzes of the world, since they could then argue that we should be boycotting the US. The young man objected that the Palestinians were calling for it, and Chomsky's response was, in essence, "If the Palestinians wanted to jump off a bridge, would you let them?" It struck me as very dismissive.

    Maybe you already knew all that, but that's my experience.

    ReplyDelete