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Noam Chomsky & the WSM discuss politics over breakfast

category national | anti-capitalism | feature author Tuesday November 10, 2009 13:33author by Conversation - various; editing Andrew - WSMauthor email wsm_ireland at yahoo dot com Report this post to the editors

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Chomsky meets fellow Anarchists in Dublin

During Noam Chomsky's recent visit to Ireland five members of the Workers Solidarity Movement met him over breakfast to talk over a range of issues from Palestine to the capitalist crisis to social partnership to Iran to Obama and the US Labour Movement. Notes on the discussion are below.

The conversation is about 52 minutes long and as its recorded over breakfast there is a fair bit of cutlery noise included. The notes below are a very rough outline to the conversation noted down as I edited the audio file, its is not a transcript but a summary and there are substantial gaps in it as the conversation goes back and forth.


Note the acronym BDS is used a couple of times in the conversation, this stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)

Farah - Voices in the Wilderness, going to Iraq and Lebanon, what the Israelis did to Lebanon in 2006, problems getting the facts to the American people
Chomsky - you can't non violently shoot down fighter jets
Etain - Gaza protests in Ireland
Ger - Palestinian solidarity groups in Ireland, the Goldstone report and Israeli war crimes
Chomsky - the flaws of the Goldstone report, lies in the NY Times, unprovoked aggression is a war crime, problems with the tactics of the Palestinian solidarity movement, have to change US policy, the successful South African example
Ger - Irish activists should target our government, suspend EuroMed agreement, Irish government position is just rhetoric
Chomsky - Europe voted with US to block an International Atomic Energy Commission demand that Israel open its reactors for inspection, did Ireland vote for this.
Farah - the difficult of pro Palestinian activism in the US
Chomsky - experience of protests against him speaking on the issue at US colleges and using that to build events
Julian - how is the financial crisis being reported to the working class in the mainstream media
Chomsky - somewhat accurate but it doesn't explain why the crisis is happening and so the Murdoch right press and lunatics are providing cry answers. The Liberal Democrats can't give the right answers so they are stuck with Rush Limbugh and Sarah Palin.
Etain - what should the anarchist response be
Chomsky - explain how the policies of the last 30 years enrich rich people, these are policies of Carter, Clinton and Obama. Obama's financial advisors should be in jail.
Etain - Irish media trying to divide public and private sector workers, unions only strong in public sector, what can we do
Chomsky - build the labour movement, there has been a major campaign since WWII to undermine unions, its part of the reason the US has no health care, UAW in the US only fought for its own workers, in Canada the unions fought for everyone.
Johnny - how can anarchists and Irish workers counter anti-union
Chomsky - education, organization and tactics that are at the level of people's understanding, union bureaucracy is usually the enemy but the workforce may trust them so you can't simply say they are the enemy.
Gerry - we need to go back to Larkin
Chomsky - the working class is in trouble if it accepts the one big family line. There was some rational to partnership in giving a broader range of the workforce the benefits of the Celtic Tiger.
Etain - the fear of a return to emigration and unemployment is real
Julian - heads of ICTU put pension levy on the table, 120k workers wanted a general strike but the strike never happened, was very demoralizing
Chomsky - the degeneration of workers solidarity has been pretty remarkable, Obama spoke at a Caterpillar factory but there were no protests from the Labor Movement, it was the first factory in generations back in the 80's to call in scabs, strikers did not get community support because of collapse of working class culture, that's where Obama goes to give his solidarity speech
Ger - how does that compare with workers struggles in Argentina in 2001
Chomsky - that crisis really destroyed the economy, there have been little revolts in the US like the Republic Windows and Doors sit in in Chicago, lot of the workers got their jobs back, auto plants are being shut down but high speed rail could be build in those plants
Ger - Waterford crystal & Visteon occupations in Ireland
Chomsky - I followed that. In the New Deal as soon as workers started sitting in that is when legislation was passed. In Argentina it happened after everything collapsed, you don't want to wait till that. Youngstown, Ohio saw an attempt to have a legal take over of the plants by the workers rather than a closure, that is where anarchists should be pushing to take the next step. From giving talks in working class areas people think its kinda reasonable, that is labor history, someone has got to light that spark.
Etain - importance of education, how do you deal with apart and people not getting terms like anarchist
Chomsky - subtract the terms, they scare people, just talk about taking over the plant
Etain - what is the best way to communicate that
Chomsky - house to house organizing, neighborhood meetings, remember antiwar and civil rights movement started with small meetings of 4 people
Johnny - what is the medias role in driving a wedge between workers
Ger - media furore about the release of last two (provo) IRA prisoners but no reporting of military refueling at Shannon
Chomsky - they are doing their job, they are part of the state corporate system, praise them for occasionally breaking out. Journalists believe in what they are doing just like soviet party hacks. They can criticize someone else's crimes but not those of their own state.
Julian - media crusade against Shell to Sea campaign
Chomsky - media critique is a good thing to do but you can't act if your surprised. Purpose of critique is not to change media but to get people to understand the filters
Etain - should grassroots groups be advocating strikes or a building social centers
Chomsky - does the population understand what tomorrows (ICTU) demonstration is about? Impressions of the audience at the Pat Kenny discussion about the demonstration, they seemed very split about it. This can be harmful, happened to the anti-war protests in the 60's with split to maoist cults and weathermen which turned into a gift for Nixon. People can understand taking over a factory. It's pretty straightforward. All tactics need to be adopted to the circumstance
Etain - why are so few women involved in politics
Chomsky - are you sure its true, there are plenty of women now and in the past e.g. Women's Strike for Peace. The anarchist tradition has plenty, participation is better now then before due to feminist movement, there are less barriers. Back in the Spanish Civil War the women anarchist leaders were supporting sexist practise that wouldn't happen now.
Farah - some of biggest social justice movement in Middle East are women's movements, even on agenda of Iranian election
Chomsky - a bit on Iranian election, feminist movement in Afghanistan preceded that in the US.
Farah - perception that women don't have rights in a lot of Islamic countries, going to a protest after that about execution of scholars, do you have thoughts on Iran
Chomsky - will there be a demonstration in Iran outside the US embassy tomorrow as they have banned all demonstrations. It's a very touchy situation, its unclear how we can best help, a strong stand against the government is good from one point of view but it helps the government paint the demonstrations as a western plot. You don't want protest to take a form that can be exploited by the ruling clerics. On Afghanistan we can make sure their voices are heard.
Farah - Code Pink recently came out against a timetable for US withdrawal after visiting Afghanistan, it was very disappointing
Chomsky - who did they talk to, Afghan women are caught between awful forces, where do you find a way out that doesn't leave one of these forces in power.
Farah - EU ambassadors saying they don't want to tell Afghan government how to treat their women as its culturally insensitive
Chomsky - best period for women in Kabul was probably during the Russian occupation, big problem was with US backed Islamic radicals, wasn't possible to get stuff published that said this.
Ger - can I ask for your opinions on Free Gaza and Viva Palestina movement
Chomsky - really inspiring development, something totally new in the history of imperialism, if Israel rams the boats its an organizing technique, if they get through its great, people have been beaten and kidnapped by Israeli forces, one thing that can turn US government policy and that's the real target. One goal is to help the Palestinians directly which is fine but also tactics that can shift US policy is critically significant. Europe can take an independent stand and Ireland could help this happen.
---
When Chomsky was in Dublin in 2006 he did a private questions and answers session for the WSM and guests at the Teachers Club. You can view the video recording of this at our youtube channel at http://www.youtube.com/wsmireland#p/u/12/R5HO0O4-Kck
That presentation if more focused on a discussion of anarchism and anarchist history

Noam Chomsky on Anarchism, Marxism & Hope for the Future - http://www.wsm.ie/story/448
Interview between Noam Chomsky and Kevin Doyle of the WSM from 1995

Related Link: http://www.wsm.ie



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author by kbrannopublication date Tue Nov 10, 2009 14:52author address author phone Report this post to the editors

What did Chomsky have for breakfast?

author by Concerned socialist - People Before Prophetspublication date Tue Nov 10, 2009 15:46author email dublindilettante at gmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

...covered a lot of well-trodden ground, though. Chomsky is a great thinker and an honourable man, but I would question his status as an icon of the revolutionary left. Fact is, chap's a reformist and always has been, as evinced by this discussion, with its condemnation of the recent protests on the grounds that they'll alienate public opinion.

author by ipublication date Tue Nov 10, 2009 17:21author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'd say Chomsky sees himself as just another activist.

Nice piece of independent media.

author by Emmapublication date Tue Nov 10, 2009 18:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks for uploading and sharing, nice interview and talk.

author by Gearóid Ó Loingsighpublication date Tue Nov 10, 2009 18:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Chomsky is a reformist. He is a liberal. He has access to a wealth of knowledge, particularly on US foreign policy. HIs has voiced support for the US Democratic party and that about says it all about his politics.

But then and perhaps to be sectarian, most anarchists I have met are just liberals.

author by Gavinpublication date Thu Nov 12, 2009 09:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Most people who consider themselves to be on the left are liberals. People who vote for SP or SWP are often liberals. The dominant political ideology is liberalism. Saying that many or most anarchists are liberals isn't saying much. Perhaps you'd like to claim that the WSM is liberal? I think that would be a much harder claim to make. The vast majority of members in the WSM are revolutionary socialists.

author by Gearoid O Loingsighpublication date Thu Nov 12, 2009 12:57author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Yes, most people who VOTE for the SP and SWP are liberal. That is correct. Would I like to claim the WSM are just a liberal organisation. Well, let us put it like this. They have, like Chomsky, many liberal qualities about them, moralism being one.

author by The Revolutio started after bacon and Sausages.publication date Thu Nov 12, 2009 12:58author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Wow I never knew the WSM were Revolutionary Socialists. I know that this will fall foul and be deleted, but honestly does the WSM have any org. or influence in Working class areas. There is no doubt that they will have members that are willing to physically challenge the status quo, but is that their own conceit and ego driving them. This is a genuine query, not a put down on the WSM. I wonder are they self-appointed guardians of the Working class.

author by Andrewpublication date Thu Nov 12, 2009 14:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The question you ask is meaningless as anarchists don't follow a model of trying to become "guardians of the Working class.", "self-appointed" or otherwise. The basic premise is almost the opposite in fact, that as long as the working class relies on guardians we will be stuck swapping one set of masters for another. At various times and in various places we've seen all manner of left individuals and organisations claiming the mantle of guardianship based on real or supposed support. And every time that has resulted in the class being defeated sometimes at the very hands of its supposed "guardians", sometimes because reliance on "guardians" means it fails to take the necessary steps to defeat reaction.

In relation to Gearoids comment this isn't based on 'moralism' but rather on historical experience. The 'moralists' in this equation are those leftists who follow the same model over and over in the hope that next time they will have good leaders and are convinced yesterday failings are explained by bad leaders. The fact they might call their moralism 'scientific socialism' or something similar to convince themselves it is something else is irrelevant.

author by pat cpublication date Thu Nov 12, 2009 14:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I have come across some liberal life-style "anarchists" in my time but not in the WSM. The WSM is a revolutionary organisation, I don't always agree with it but Iknow its members are sincere in their struggle for a better future. The WSMs struggle is not a liberal one, it is a Revolutionary Struggle.Thats my experience in working with them in campaigns.

I also think that the votes attracted by the SP & SWP are by and large from low and middle income workers. Not many stockbrokers voted for Brid Smith in Ballyfermot and few enough solicitors voted for Mick Barry in Gurranebraher. It doesn't mean their policies are the best but thers no point in caricituring their support base.

author by Concerned socialist - People Before Prophetspublication date Thu Nov 12, 2009 19:16author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Anarchism, aside from being a rather jejune, adolescent creed, shares with liberalism and neoliberalism a preoccupation with the supremacy of the individual. As such, the step from anarchism to Ayn Rand is a small one. Significantly, there are no analogues in socialism for anarcho-capitalism or right-wing libertarianism. The concepts are simply incompatible. That tells you a lot about anarchism.

author by James O'Brien - WSMpublication date Fri Nov 13, 2009 00:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Concerned socialist: Anarchism, aside from being a rather jejune, adolescent creed, shares with liberalism and neoliberalism a preoccupation with the supremacy of the individual. As such, the step from anarchism to Ayn Rand is a small one. Significantly, there are no analogues in socialism for anarcho-capitalism or right-wing libertarianism. The concepts are simply incompatible. That tells you a lot about anarchism.

Not really. It just tells us that they're a lot of fairly confused people around.

It hardly follows that since anarchism doesn't subordinate individual freedom to the needs of a highly centralised state that it is a small step to a particularly silly version of capitalism. After all, anarchism is a socialist ideology.

Bakunin, who was pretty concise on the social nature of people, condemned the myth of the social contract and the isolated primitive human in favour of viewing humans as intrinsically inclined towards collective interaction. The fact that we retain our individual consciousness makes this interaction much richer and more complex than if we were borg like cogs in a machine.

Iain McKay summed it up pretty well:

"...freedom is fundamentally a social relationship. A person is born into society and can become human within society. Isolation quickly drives people insane. This means that, as Bakunin argued, liberty is a "feature not of isolation but of interaction."

http://www.anarchism.ws/writers/anarcho/talks/anarANDfr....html

author by Gavinpublication date Fri Nov 13, 2009 11:19author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Anarchism as a mass movement was never a naive anti-statism. As such, lumping revolutionary class struggle anarchists in with the relatively new, unrelated and never revolutionary anarcho-capitalists is entirely absurd. One might as well say that the world socialism appears in the world "national socialism" and conclude that Nazism is a small step away from socialism. The only anarchism in anarcho-capitalism is in the name, reflecting exactly the socialist content of Nazism.

Anarchists have long understood that freedom is a social good and that is why we are fundamentally anti-capitalist. We believe that this freedom will be exercised within the bounds set by a polity which will be created by the working class through revolution. The belief in liberty is not anti-socialist, in fact quite the opposite. You can't have socialism without liberty since any group that imposes arbitrary authority will quickly become the elite class, and class society will be recreated.

It's interesting that when anarchism is attacked from the left, the attackers so often set up straw men. There are very real differences between anarchism and other left ideologies. It would serve us well to debate on those differences rather than mischaracterisations or associations with ideologies we denounce. Sometimes I question whether the anarcho-skeptic socialist left attack strawmen because they are afraid that they will lose the debate if they argue on the basis of what we really believe.

author by Concerned socialist - People Before Prophetspublication date Fri Nov 13, 2009 11:47author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The Nazis were, in pedantic terms, entirely entitled to describe themselves as socialist, if we examine merely their actions in very limited spheres as opposed to their philosophy. Ditto the Stalinists. However, they both violated the fundamental principles of socialism (equality before the law, common ownership, democratic planning etc)

By contrast, the goals of the libertarian right and the libertarian left are identical; the "freedom" (meaningless word which has no place in political discourse) of the individual, which must also and necessarily encompass the freedom to be oppressed by mutual agreement.

I think it's telling of the smugness of some anarchists (by no means all or most) that they subscribe to Chomsky's simplistic view that people are feeble-minded and brainwashed from an early age, hence their failure to overthrow the power structures which do them harm. The correct analysis is that people are only too aware of the corruption of social and democratic structures, and intelligent enough to recognise that the task of overthrowing them is one society is specifically structured to frustrate, as well as one which is generally incompatible with that of scraping a living.

author by pat cpublication date Fri Nov 13, 2009 12:08author address author phone Report this post to the editors

kbranno asks: "What did Chomsky have for breakfast? "

Whisky? I suggest this because in 2006 when Chomsky was over the WSM arranged a meeting of approx 80 people with him in the Teachers Club. Chomsky was given a bottle of whiskey by the WSM on that occasion.

Perhaps this time he got another bottle and poured it on hid muesli. Just hazarding a guess.

author by Jamespublication date Fri Nov 13, 2009 13:18author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Concerned socialist: The Nazis were, in pedantic terms, entirely entitled to describe themselves as socialist, if we examine merely their actions in very limited spheres as opposed to their philosophy. Ditto the Stalinists. However, they both violated the fundamental principles of socialism (equality before the law, common ownership, democratic planning etc)

And since the violated the fundamental principles of socialism, the logical conclusion is that they weren’t socialists. Pretty simple really.

Concerned socialist: By contrast, the goals of the libertarian right and the libertarian left are identical;

Except, of course, they’re not. Anarchists support the creation of workers government to replace the state. The so-called right libertarians most emphatically do not support this.

Concerned socialist:I think it's telling of the smugness of some anarchists (by no means all or most) that they subscribe to Chomsky's simplistic view that people are feeble-minded and brainwashed from an early age, hence their failure to overthrow the power structures which do them harm.

Except, of course, that Chomsky does not claim that people are feeble minded. He argues that people are capable of developing critical thought and, indeed of running society; he advocates, after all, precisely that.

author by pat cpublication date Fri Nov 13, 2009 20:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Some people are getting prolier than thou here. So I think this is an ideal opportunity to introduce an article by Mark Fischer of the CPGB, its about a talk he gave at Eton College.

Culture fit for a ruling class

I was told by members of the George Orwell Politics Society in Eton college that they had read some criticism on the web of the last Marxist who came to speak to them. Alan Woods of Socialist Appeal was apparently taken to task by some left lard-heads for ‘consorting with the enemy’ after he spoke to these scions of the British establishment.

Indeed, I have had some Trot friends and acquaintances come over a little sniffy when I have mentioned that on October 13 - at the invitation of the aforementioned society - I spoke to a packed house in Eton college on the subject of ‘Why you should be a Marxist’.

I will not go into the details of what I actually said - other than the fact that I assured the audience that the whole point of Marxists’ identification with the working class was its universalism. We are not out for petty class revenge on members of the present-day ruling elite, still less their children. The Marxist project was one for general human liberation - including, I assured him, for the likes of Lord William Waldegrave of North Hill (former army major, government minister under Margaret Thatcher and now provost of Eton), who sat in the front row and whom I spotted once or twice smiling and nodding at something I had said. Disconcertingly.


Full text of article at:

Related Link: http://www.cpgb.org.uk/worker/792/culturefit.php
author by Blacblocpublication date Fri Nov 13, 2009 20:29author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Anarchism, aside from being a rather jejune, adolescent creed, shares with liberalism and neoliberalism a preoccupation with the supremacy of the individual. As such, the step from anarchism to Ayn Rand is a small one. Significantly, there are no analogues in socialism for anarcho-capitalism or right-wing libertarianism. The concepts are simply incompatible. That tells you a lot about anarchism.

Beg to differ. All it really tells us is what your interpretation is - it's not accurate about anarchism imo at all. There is a need to reconcile freedom of the individual with collective social responsibility. A lot of socialist theory, rather naively, fails to do that.

author by Concerned anarchistpublication date Sat Nov 14, 2009 15:13author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Significantly, there are no analogues in socialism for anarcho-capitalism or right-wing libertarianism."

Except for maybe the state-capitalism of the 'socialist' USSR or perhaps the right wing members of a many a self titled "socialist party" around Europe?

Use your head ffs.

author by Still concerned, still socialist - Noam news is good newspublication date Sun Nov 15, 2009 01:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"State capitalism" is a perversion of socialism in both concept and execution. Right-wing libertarianism is one valid logical endpoint of libertarian individualism. Until the libertarian "left" can reconcile the fact that nothing in their philosophy prevents people from entering into voluntary exploitative contracts it will be difficult to take them seriously. I'm amused that the most ardent purveyors of (occasionally valid) criticisms of vanguardism are invariably those who transparently see themselves as the anointed ones, with their condescending attitude towards the rest of the left and the working class. It does no harm to leave Belfield occasionally.

author by Niall - Humanitypublication date Sun Nov 15, 2009 12:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Chomsky is an anarchist?

Er, doesn't he draw a salary from an ivy league university in the United States of the Empire?!?

His response to 9/11 being the work of the Mossad? "Who cares!"

Related Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hPP3xQtTfc&feature=related
author by Pepepublication date Wed Nov 18, 2009 14:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Chomsky is an anarchist?

Er, doesn't he draw a salary from an ivy league university in the United States of the Empire?!?"

So an anarchist cannot claim to be so because they work in a US university? This is the most foolish claim I've ever heard. So, you can't be an anarchist if you earn a wage, if you work for the State, if you work for a boss? anarchists can only live in alleys and eat from the litter bin? Or perhaps they should all retreat to live naked in a remote region? Those who work for the class enemy and yet, want to look for a collective end to this situation (as oppposed to an individualistic one) are those who gave birth to the anarchist movement.

Anarchism is not for saints living in the mountain removed from society. Actually, if there was a chance for the anarchists to live away from capitalism in their own communities, there would be little point in arguing for the revolution.

That said it is true that there are lot of so called anarchists around that are nothing but liberals (particularly visible on the web). But so there are lots of socialist and Marxist liberals... starting by the socialdemocrats and eurocommunists... this is not intended as a sectarian criticism, but in order to put the record straight.

ps. it is great to see the WSM opinions on the IPSC and the Palestinian solidarity work in Ireland. It would be great to see some input of them in the BDS campaign or in the solidarity work we do. People would really appreciate that.

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