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(en) Alt. Media, Village - IRELAND'S CURRENT AFFAIRS WEEKLY reports on anarchists*

Date Tue, 12 Sep 2006 16:04:56 +0300


American anarchist
As George Bush becomes more of a global pariah, so Noam Chomsky
is becoming a veritable international superstar, despite being almost
ignored in his native US. What might be less well-known is that he
attacks mainstream US politics more harshly than he does right-wing
Republicans - and that he's an anarchist. By Harry Browne
Noam Chomsky's status as an international political celebrity has
skyrocketed alongside George W Bush's status as an international
political pariah. In Ireland, where Bush can only peek out of a heavily
fortified castle, Chomsky (previously a quiet visitor to these shores)
sees thousands turned away from his packed-out Dublin talks.

It's funny that Bush's apparent extremism has helped legitimise
Chomsky's particular form of dissent, because the 77-year-old
academic's critique of US foreign and domestic policy is by no means
confined to knocking right-wing Republicans.

His writings contain a far more fundamental attack on bipartisan
mainstream politics in the US. He has, for example, devastatingly
skewered liberal belief in John F Kennedy as an alleged "dove" on
Vietnam, and unwaveringly highlighted the deadly consequences of
Bill Clinton's actions, from Sudan to Serbia to Iraq.

In the American media, although his bestselling writings have made
him more visible in recent years, he remains a peripheral figure. As his
liberal opponent Paul Berman wrote with satisfaction in 2003: "In the
United States, the principal newspapers and magazines have tended to
ignore Chomsky's political writings for many years now, because of
his reputation as a crank."

"Crank" is a comparatively mild term of abuse for Chomsky. He is an
American who is often labelled "anti-American", a Jew sometimes
accused of anti-semitism. (The disgusting phrase often employed in
the US is "self-hating Jew".)

The labels are as misguided as they are ugly. Even in a culture that
often wrongly equates criticism of Israel with anti-semitism, the fact is
that Chomsky's position on Israel is moderate by the standards of
much of the international left: he now favours a two-state solution in
Palestine and has often praised the range of internal debate in Israel.
(He reads Hebrew readily.) Moreover, while some anti-war polemics
tend to blame Israel for US policy in the Middle East, Chomsky tends
to view Israel as an instrument of US power rather than a manipulator
of it.

Nor, in his writing, does he see anything exceptional about America's
exercise of its power, notwithstanding the many critics who accuse
him of painting the US as uniquely "evil". Words he wrote in 1969
continue to explain his close scrutiny of US behaviour: "(1) it is much
easier to be deluded about one's own purity; (2) American force and
the willingness to use it is, at the moment, the major factor in
international affairs; (3) we have some hope of changing American
'intentions and objectives' if we can come to understand them."

While he is neither an anti-American nor an anti-semite, Chomsky
does certainly challenge any attempt to define what an American, or a
Jew, may legitimately believe. American and Jewish politics have
many faces: the immigrant-filled communities of the 1930s and 1940s,
like the one in Philadelphia where he grew up, were hotbeds of radical
ideas – including the anarchist, anti-Leninist ones that helped
define Chomsky's worldview. Arguments about Zionism raged too: the
young Chomsky lived on an Israeli kibbutz for six weeks, but believed
the idea of a Jewish state was exclusive and anti-democratic.

Chomsky remains a libertarian socialist, an anarchist – he planned
a meeting with activists from the Workers Solidarity Movement while
in Dublin. However, many other self-described anarchists were
disappointed that he supported a tactical 2004 vote for the Democrat
he called "Bush-lite", John Kerry. Chomsky said that "in a system of
immense power, small differences can translate into large outcomes".

At any rate, for this formidable, plain-speaking intellectual there is
clearly more to anarchist ideas than dressing in black and cursing at
cops. "I think it only makes sense to seek out and identify structures of
authority, hierarchy, and domination in every aspect of life, and to
challenge them," he said in a 1995 interview, adding: "unless a
justification for them can be given, they are illegitimate, and should be
dismantled, to increase the scope of human freedom."

In his passion for freedom, at least, Chomsky draws on a rich vein of
American thought. He believes that the desire for freedom is intrinsic
to human beings, a belief that connects his politics to his hugely
respected work on innate grammar and other aspects of linguistics.

His theoretical and philosophical perspectives by no means fit neatly
into a simplistic left-wing scheme. For example, he has leaned toward
the "nature" side of the eternal nature v nurture debate, and said many
liberals' insistence that differences among human beings can be
socially explained is actual risky from an egalitarian perspective, since
it seems to concede implicitly that if differences could be proved to be
genetically determined, then inequality could be justified. Humans, he
says, can choose morally to make equality a social priority whatever
the intrinsic differences among them.

Such insights, though they don't always play to the crowd, have
nonetheless earned Chomsky a huge following. More than 20 years
ago he told an interviewer, "Ever since I had any political awareness,
I've felt either alone or part of a tiny minority." He may take some
satisfaction in considering that the "Chomskyan" minority has grown.

? More info and many of Chomsky's books are free online via:
www.chomsky.info e attribute, which means that men are more likely
to help others when they are doing it in a public way that might be
interpreted as heroic. The difference in one trait ‘helping
others’ can be large, favouring males, or close to zero, depending
on the social context in which that trait occurs.
=======================================
* The Village is one of the two mainstream Irish current affairs
weeklys magazines. Owned and edited by Ireland's most famous journalist
practically the only left-leaning Irish publication.
Regularly include text by and about anarchists.

In this article, even the author point to the fact that Chomsky is not
of the mainstream anarchist spectrum. The option to get some minimal
gains by election are more important to him than the principal
boycotting of election as a message of rejection of the capitalist
"democracy".
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