(en) Review: MANUFACTURING DISSENT

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Tue, 4 Mar 1997 14:56:30 GMT


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This article is from the Irish Anarchist Paper =

Workers Solidarity, No 50 Spring 1997

MANUFACTURING DISSENT

CHOMSKY'S POLITICS by Milan Rai =

(Verso, London) =A310.99

NOAM CHOMSKY is not easy to ignore. =

Perhaps the best known intellectual =

dissident of today, his books turn up in =

all the major bookshops and both RTE and =

Channel 4 have run programmes about him. =

A measure of his influence is that an =

unpublicised talk in Dublin a few years =

ago drew close to 1,000 listeners.

This book gives an overview of his =

politics and work spanning a quarter of a =

century. The sheer volume of his written =

work is as impressive as the content is =

challenging.

A professor of linguistics by trade, =

Chomsky has written extensively on the =

evils of American foreign policy, media =

censorship, and the complex issues of =

power and its manipulation by politicians =

and capitalists of all kinds, and about =

what constitutes real democracy. =

The extent and rigour of his criticism of =

modern capitalist systems is such that he =

is often dismissed as too radical even by =

those who define themselves as left-wing. =

Chomsky defines himself as a libertarian =

socialist or anarchist. He has little =

time for orthodox left wing positions, =

especially those of the Leninist =

tradition which he rightly defines as =

authoritarian and as capable of abusing =

power as any capitalists. He comments =

"to libertarian socialists, at least, =

socialism and freedom are inseparable. =

There is no socialism worthy of the name =

under a party dictatorship".

One of the difficulties for anarchists, =

according to Chomsky, is that both the =

major propaganda systems of the modern =

era colluded in distorting the meaning of =

socialism. Both Washington and Moscow =

found it convenient to identify the =

totalitarianism of the Soviet Union with =

socialism. "For the Bolsheviks, the goal =

of the farce was to extract what =

advantage they could from the moral =

prestige of Socialism, for the West, the =

purpose was to defame Socialism and =

entrench the system of ownership and =

management control over all aspects of =

economic, political and social life".

Chomsky has often expressed his =

preference for that tendency in anarchism =

which "merges, or at least inter-relates =

very closely with a variety of left-wing =

Marxism, ...radical Marxism merges with =

anarchist currents". He states that the =

ideas of libertarian socialism are =

"exactly the appropriate ideas for an =

advanced industrial society".

Chomsky has been criticised even by =

admirers of his work because he does not =

offer specific solutions to the evils and =

abuses he identifies.

He was an activist himself briefly =

against the Vietnam war but he sees his =

role mainly as a resource to activists =

struggling for justice and meaningful =

democracy throughout the world. He =

provides the analysis and the =

documentation for groups and individuals =

to act on. The following quote =

illustrates his position:

"I don't think I'm in any position to =

tell people what to do ....If you tell =

people to get seriously involved in =

dissent, they're going to change their =

lives. This is not the kind of thing you =

can dip your toe into and then walk away =

from. If you're serious about it, it is =

going to affect you. I don't feel in any =

position to tell people how to make these =

choices."

Despite this, however, he is very clear =

that intellectuals, for example, because =

of their privileged access to knowledge =

and thus power, have a moral duty to =

propagate the truth and expose lies and =

cover-ups in government actions and in =

the media. =

He advocates a range of strategies and =

tactics from protest campaigns to =

lobbying politicians judged by the =

criteria of effectiveness. Even limited =

reforms are not dismissed as short-term =

goals. He suggests that political =

activists have a duty to ensure that =

their actions do not result in further =

repression for the populations and groups =

suffering the worst oppression including =

mass murder and genocide as in East =

Timor. He dismisses much of the orthodox =

left-wing positions and writings as =

irrelevant to the real issues and =

struggles in the world. =

Chomsky's vision is a challenging and =

inspiring one. His radical libertarian =

critique of state power and media =

manipulation are powerful tools for =

activists. What is missing is a strong =

argument for the development of =

revolutionary theory and strategy which =

will help activists to resist the =

temptation of authoritarian solutions to =

problems of social change. It is curious =

that Chomsky has written so little on =

this specific subject. Despite these =

reservations, this book is well worth =

reading as an introduction to Chomsky's =

writings.

Deirdre Quinn

------------------------------------------------ This article is from the Irish Anarchist Paper =

Workers Solidarity, No 50 Spring 1997

The whole issue and previous issues can be found at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/2724/anpubdx.html

-- =

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