Chomsky's anarchism

Uday Mohan UM6271A at
Thu Oct 8 20:35:20 PDT 1998

If someone who believes in anarchist principles also believes that a Canadian-style, govt-sponsored health insurance system ought to replace one run by corporations, is he a reformer rather than an anarchist? And if that same person believes that U.S. corporations are less accountable to most citizens than the U.S. govt, and that therefore the gummint should be used judiciously to combat the growing power of corporations, is he a reformer rather than an anarchist? The answers, No and No, seem pretty obvious to me.

For a positive assessment of Chomsky's anarchism published in an anarchist journal, see Paul Marshall, "Noam Chomsky's Anarchism," _Our Generation_ 22, Nos. 1 & 2 (Fall '90-Spring '91).

>From "The Relevance of Anarcho-syndicalism," an interview with
Chomsky published in _Radical Priorities_, 2d rev ed., edited by C. Otero, 1984, p. 246-7:

Q: Historically speaking, have there been any sustained examples on any substantial scale of societies which approximated to the anarchist ideal?

A: There are small-scale societies, small in number, that I think have done so quite well, and there a few examples of large-scale libertarian revolutions which were largely anarchist in their structure. As to the first, small societies extending over a long period, I myself think the most dramatic example is perhaps the Israeli Kibbutzim, which for a long period really were constructed on anarchist principles: that is, self-management, direct worker control, integration of agriculture, industry, service, personal participation in self-management....

Q: But they were presumably, and still are, in the framework of a conventional State which guarantees certain basic stabilities.

A: Well, they weren't always. Actually their history is rather interesting. Since 1948 they've been in the framework of the conventional State. Prior to that they were within the framework of the colonial enclave and in fact there was a subterranean, largely cooperative society which was not really part of the system of the British mandate, but was functioning outside of it. And to some extent that's survived the establishment of the State, though of course it became integrated into the State and in my view lost a fair amount of its libertarian socialist character through this process, and through other processes which are unique to the history of that region, which we need not go into.

...A good example of a really large-scale anarchist revolution ... is the Spanish revolution in 1936, in which over most of Republican Spain there was a quite inspiring anarchist revolution that involved both industry and agriculture ...

Later Chomsky distinguishes between those anarchists--like Kropotkin--who believed that anarchism fit best with a preindustrial setting, and those who believed that anarchism was "the proper mode of organization for a highly complex advanced industrial society." Chomsky sides with the latter tradition.


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