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"chomsky's betrayal"

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    ========= ========= ========= http://www.wsws.org/articles/2004/apr2004/chom-a05.shtml WSWS : News & Analysis : North America Professor Chomsky comes in from
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 12, 2004
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      WSWS : News & Analysis : North America

      Professor Chomsky comes in from the cold
      By David Walsh
      5 April 2004

      Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at the
      Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and
      radical critic of American foreign policy, has
      endorsed the presumptive Democratic Party candidate
      for president, John Kerry, in his race with George W.
      Bush. The arguments Chomsky musters in support of
      Kerry are banal and threadbare in the utmost. They
      reveal the MIT professor, an articulate observer of
      certain political and social phenomena, to be a vulgar
      defender of the two-party system.

      Chomsky offers up yet another version of the
      �lesser-of-two-evils� argument, which for decades has
      helped keep American workers in thrall to the big
      business parties and paralyzed in the face of the
      ruling class assault on their social conditions and
      living standards.

      In an interview given to Britain�s Guardian on March
      16, Chomsky remarks that �Kerry is sometimes described
      as Bush-lite, which is not inaccurate, and in general
      the political spectrum is pretty narrow in the United
      States, and elections are mostly bought, as the
      population knows. But despite the limited differences
      both domestically and internationally, there are
      differences. And in this system of immense power,
      small differences can translate into large outcomes.�
      Chomsky expresses admiration for Ralph Nader and
      Democratic Party congressman Dennis Kucinich, �insofar
      as they bring up issues and carry out an educational
      and organisational function.� He acknowledges that the
      election comes down to a �choice between the two
      factions of the business party,� but that this �does
      sometime...make a difference.�

      In fact, although the Guardian interview produced
      headlines, Chomsky had already made his position clear
      more than a month earlier in an interview with the
      Left Hook web site:

      �The current incumbents may do severe, perhaps
      irreparable, damage if given another hold on power�a
      very slim hold, but one they will use to achieve very
      ugly and dangerous ends. In a very powerful state,
      small differences may translate into very substantial
      effects on the victims, at home and abroad. It is no
      favor to those who are suffering, and may face much
      worse ahead, to overlook these facts. Keeping the
      Bush circle out means holding one�s nose and voting
      for some Democrat....�

      These are bankrupt arguments, which avoid the
      substantive political issues facing wide layers of the
      American population. If Chomsky admits that Kerry and
      Bush are merely two representatives of the same
      imperialist elite, how can he possibly justify support
      to either one? How will support for the candidacy of
      one or another of these reactionary figures contribute
      to the political clarification and long-term interests
      of working people in America?

      The notion that the �small differences� between the
      two major parties can translate into �large outcomes�
      suggests that there is some means of ameliorating the
      crisis of American society other than its radical
      economic and social transformation, a solution that
      can be handed over to the other �faction� of �the
      business party,� the Democrats.

      That there are differences between the parties is a

      Otherwise, why would they exist as separate
      organizations? The two bourgeois parties in America
      have their own histories, they make somewhat differing
      appeals, they use distinct tactics in the pursuit of a
      common goal: the defense of American capitalist
      interests at home and abroad.

      One of the specific aims of the Democratic Party and
      its supporters at this moment in history, and the
      recent efforts of Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich and Al
      Sharpton exemplified this, is to give the impression
      that a diversity of opinion, and even opposition, is
      possible within the current political framework.
      Chomsky is volunteering his �left� credentials in the
      perpetration of this fraud.

      The conflicts that arise within the ruling elite can
      sometimes be quite bitter, as the Clinton impeachment
      scandal demonstrated. However, these differences do
      not provide a viable basis upon which working people
      can organize their struggle for their own social
      interests. On the contrary, subordination to the
      Democratic Party remains the principal mechanism by
      which those independent interests are stifled and

      The Bush regime is no doubt reactionary and dangerous.
      However, its character does not arise from the
      personalities of its various representatives, but from
      the crisis of American and world capitalism. This
      crisis will not go away if the Democrats are elected.
      On the contrary, the situation will grow sharper, no
      matter which of the two big business parties comes to
      power. Everything depends, in fact, on the working
      population advancing its own socialist,
      internationalist solution to the crisis of American
      society, against all the factions of the Democrats and
      Republicans. Kerry, a veteran bourgeois politician,
      who voted for the Iraq war and the Patriot Act, is
      also reactionary and dangerous.

      Given Kerry�s insistent support for the continued
      colonial occupation of Iraq, Chomsky, by dint of his
      support for Kerry, ends up, whatever his past
      anti-imperialist credentials, lending aid and comfort
      to a brutal and criminal imperialist enterprise.

      Moreover, with his endorsement of the Democratic Party
      candidate, with hand to nose or not, Chomsky must
      accept responsibility for the actions of a Kerry
      administration, should it come to power. When such a
      government launches its own colonial invasions, in the
      name of a �humanitarian intervention,� Chomsky will
      bear a share of the political responsibility.

      The MIT professor already has a dubious track record
      in this regard. During the Clinton administration,
      Chomsky supported US military intervention in Haiti in
      1994 to re-install President Jean-Bertrand Aristide,
      and again in the Balkans in late 1995, following the
      Dayton Accords. Chomsky claimed that American military
      action in Haiti would �probably cut the terror� and
      that the alternative to US intervention in the former
      Yugoslavia was for the two sides to �keep massacring
      one another.�

      Recent events have disproved his argument in both
      cases. The terror in Haiti and the communalist
      massacres in the former Yugoslavia have not stopped.
      Foreign invasion and occupation have merely set the
      stage for more bloodshed and deepened oppression under
      conditions in which the populations, thanks, in part,
      to the illusions in imperialist �humanitarianism� sown
      by apologists like Chomsky, are more disoriented and
      politically disarmed than ever.

      There is nothing original about Chomsky�s views. They
      have been advocated by reformists and opportunists for
      many years. Chomsky essentially advises the �victims,�
      as he describes them, of American capitalism to rely
      on the liberal wing of the ruling elite to prevent the
      worst from befalling them. This strategy has failed
      time and time again.

      There is a certain irony in the fact that Chomsky, who
      has made a name for himself as a staunch critic of
      predatory US foreign policy, is linking himself to a
      right-wing Democrat who faults George Bush for having
      �done too little� in the �war on terror,� and who
      declares that �we must...reaffirm our belief that the
      cause of Israel must be the cause of America.�
      It is not for nothing that openly pro-war and
      pro-Zionist Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut
      could recently boast, �Senator Kerry and President
      Bush both made speeches on foreign policy this week.
      If you look beyond the rhetoric and the media attempts
      to find differences, both of them, obviously, want to
      win the war on terrorism, both of them want to succeed
      in Iraq.�

      Chomsky�s argument, in the above-mentioned interviews,
      that the Bush crowd, �an extremely dangerous clique,�
      is �particularly cruel and savage� is the
      stock-in-trade of every �left� protester in America.
      The right-wing threat is always �too grave,� the
      conditions �too unripe� for a break with the
      Democrats. We have heard this before, more than a few
      times. It turns out that for the Chomskys, the Michael
      Moores and their ilk, the time is never �right� to
      build a socialist alternative to the two-party system.
      And for them, it will never be.

      Chomsky�s political abasement is part of an
      international trend. In the name of combating the
      extreme right, the entire global coterie of
      middle-class �radicals� (whose politics are today
      actually anything but radical) is being drawn into the
      orbit of bourgeois politics. Chomsky�s arguments bear
      a resemblance to the positions advanced by the French
      �far left� in justifying its support for President
      Jacques Chirac in the second round of the French
      presidential elections in May 2002.

      Alain Krivine�s Ligue Communiste R�volutionnaire
      (LCR), for example, urged a vote for Chirac, the
      corrupt representative of French capital. The LCR
      called on French voters �to block the [ultra-right]
      National Front at the ballot box as we have done in
      the street. On May 5, vote against [National Front
      candidate Jean-Marie] Le Pen.� This, in a two-man

      While Chomsky now recommends �holding one�s nose� and
      voting for Kerry, two years ago LCR presidential
      candidate Olivier Besancenot suggested �all voters
      wash their hands on Sunday evening [i.e., after
      casting their votes for Chirac].� The parts of the
      anatomy are different, but the opportunist
      prescription�even to the fraudulently regretful
      tone�is the same.

      Lessons of history

      It would be an oversimplification to suggest that
      Chomsky�s endorsement of Kerry �strips away his
      oppositional pretensions� or something of that sort.
      One has no reason to doubt the sincerity of the MIT
      professor�s continuing hostility to the misery and
      suffering inflicted by US imperialism on the world,
      including the American population.

      However, there is a logic to politics. As Trotsky
      noted, �No one has yet invented a means for paralyzing
      the effects of the law of the class struggle.� Chomsky
      is being propelled by the development of a political
      crisis in which his outlook, no doubt influenced by
      his membership in the academic elite, leaves him quite
      vulnerable to the siren song of bourgeois liberalism.

      In arguing for a strategy based on reliance on the
      �least evil� wing of the establishment, Chomsky
      rejects one of the central political lessons of modern
      history: that liberalism inevitably degenerates and
      turns to the right, despite its misgivings, in the
      face of the threat posed from below, by the working

      But then, Professor Chomsky is an individual who is
      blind to many of the most critical lessons of the
      twentieth century. One might say he has made this
      blindness an enduring aspect of his life�s work.
      Born in 1928, Chomsky was deeply affected at an early
      age (he wrote his first article on the subject when he
      was 10) by the fate of the Spanish Civil War
      (1936-39). He was influenced by an uncle, who �was a
      follower of Trotsky, then an anti-Trotskyite.� Chomsky
      came to espouse the anarchist hostility to Marxism and
      Bolshevism, views that he still holds.

      Chomsky�s opposition to the October Revolution is well
      known. He has described it as �one of the greatest
      blows� against the working class and a
      �counterrevolutionary coup.� The latter comment jibes
      with the claims made by figures like the fanatical
      anti-communist historian Richard Pipes. Serious
      scholarship refutes these ignorant assertions,
      detailing the growth and depth of Bolshevik influence
      in the working class and the extent to which the most
      advanced workers followed the inner-party discussions
      in 1917 with the greatest attention.

      Chomsky told an interviewer in 1995 that �Lenin was
      one of the greatest enemies of socialism,� who
      allegedly held the idea �that workers are only
      interested in horse-racing.� In reality, it is
      precisely the independent, self-conscious movement of
      the working class, expressed in the October 1917
      revolution and the entire previous development of the
      socialist workers� movement, that disturbs and enrages
      the petty-bourgeois professor.

      (One recalls the episode in John Reed�s Ten Days That
      Shook the World
      in which a pro-Bolshevik soldier patiently withstands
      the verbal attacks of a �supercilious� young man, a
      self-proclaimed �revolutionary,� who rails against
      Lenin and the Bolsheviks. After each insulting volley,
      the soldier patiently returns to the basic question,
      �There are two classes, don�t you see, the proletariat
      and the bourgeoisie.� The argument and the audacity of
      the soldier in thinking for himself drives the
      arrogant �socialist� into a frenzy.)

      Chomsky has qualified his comments on Marxism and Marx
      by noting that he is �far from being a Marx scholar,�
      that his remarks �are impressions� and so forth. He
      means to convey the idea that the subject is of
      relatively meager interest. He expresses a certain
      hauteur, a loftiness in regard to such issues. About
      Trotsky he has little to say, except to argue that the
      policies he and Lenin pursued led directly to the
      Stalinist tyranny.

      Chomsky is generally dismissive of those who have
      tried to draw lessons from the difficult experiences
      of the twentieth century. His frequent comments about
      the Spanish Revolution and the role played by the
      anarchist movement are glib and misleading, and again
      rely on his listeners� or readers� ignorance of the
      actual experience.

      In 1970, Chomsky wrote about the �accomplishments of
      the popular revolution in Spain,� based on years of
      work by the anarcho-syndicalist movement. He told an
      interviewer in 1995 that �The achievements of Spanish
      workers and peasants, before the revolution was
      crushed, were impressive in many ways.� Which
      accomplishments, and how and why was the revolution

      Chomsky accurately ascribes a central
      counterrevolutionary role to Stalinism, which, through
      the Spanish Communist Party and the NKVD, helped
      subordinate the Spanish working class to the �liberal�
      bourgeoisie (precisely the strategy Chomsky proposes
      today!), resisted its seizure of the factories and
      sought to exterminate all left-wing opposition.
      But Chomsky�s bland phrases cover over the role played
      by the anarchist leadership itself, which assisted the
      Stalinists and social democrats in chloroforming the
      Spanish masses. Trotskyist Felix Morrow documented
      this history very well in his Revolution and
      Counter-Revolution in Spain (available online:
      He explained how anarchism�in the form of the CNT-FAI
      (National Confederation of Labor and the Anarchist
      Iberian Federation) leadership of Garcia Oliver�was
      �tested on a grand scale� by the Spanish events, and
      how it failed miserably.

      Morrow wrote, �Anarchism has consistently refused to
      recognize the distinction between a bourgeois and
      workers� state. Even in the days of Lenin and Trotsky,
      anarchism denounced the Soviet Union as an exploiters�
      regime. Precisely the failure to distinguish between a
      bourgeois and proletarian state had already led the
      CNT, in the honeymoon days of the revolution of 1931,
      to the same kind of opportunist errors as are always
      made by reformists�who also, in their way, make no
      distinction between bourgeois and workers� states....
      �Now, in the far more powerful fumes of �the
      revolution of July 19, [1936]� when the accustomed
      boundary lines between bourgeoisie and proletariat
      were smeared over for the time being, the anarchists�
      traditional refusal to distinguish between a bourgeois
      and workers� state led them slowly, but decisively,
      into the ministry of a bourgeois state.�

      The anarchists joined the Catalonian government and
      the national coalition government under Largo
      Caballero. Indifferent to the state, they saw no
      reason not to join one. The anarchists in government
      functioned as bourgeois ministers, defending private
      property and the capitalist social order.

      When the working class in Barcelona rose up in May
      1937 in defense of its gains and set up barricades
      against the coalition government, the anarchist
      leadership of Garcia Oliver worked to put down the
      struggle, demanded that workers leave the streets, and
      helped restore �order.� Left-wing opponents,
      including sections of anarchist youth, who rejected
      this betrayal were denounced as agents-provocateurs.
      The revolutionary opportunity was lost, and
      counter-revolution gained the upper hand. Official
      Spanish anarchism played an infamous role.

      There is a slow but decisive logic to the anarchist
      Chomsky�s own evolution. Indifferent to the great
      questions of history and principle, a vehement
      opponent of the first effort by the workers to
      organize their own society, having rejected the
      revolutionary role of the working class, where else is
      Chomsky to turn, but to one or another section of the

      Harsh times have this painful but salutary effect:
      organizations and individuals are tested. Whatever is
      false, unresolved or unprincipled inevitably reveals
      itself. The growing political crisis in the US, which
      threatens to discredit both big business parties and
      the media, places intense pressure on all those
      claiming to oppose the status quo. Chomsky and others
      like him have responded to the first stages of this
      crisis by casting their lot with the powers that be.
      The appropriate political lessons need to be drawn.

      See Also:

      How Joe Lieberman won the Democratic presidential
      [25 March 2004]

      Michael Moore enlists with General Clark: the
      predictable�logic of protest politics [27 January

      Noam Chomsky: from antiwar protester to advocate of US

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