Chomsky and Hero Worship

Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at phoenix.Princeton.EDU
Fri Oct 9 06:01:50 PDT 1998

It's been several years since I have read Chomsky. Mike Cohen noted

> especially evils committed by
> so called leftists he is weak.

Oh, cmon, Mike: Chomsky has always been an anti-bolshevik, characterized the Soviet Union as a police state, written favorably of anarchist criticisms of Marx (e.g., intro to Guerin book).

Or do you think that just because Chomsky criticizes Israel he pussy foots on the question of Mubarek or Saddam or the Taliban? The venality of Saddat and Arab leadership is a big theme of the Fateful Triangle.

Moreover, Chomsky is scathingly critical of the liberal left in this country: the so called doves, the Democratic Party, union leadership.

What specific criticisms of the left or third world tyrannies do you wish he had made and would have been appropriate to make in his critical studies, along with Edward Herman, of US foreign policy?

> Unfortunately, unlike Marx or Keynes his
> work doesn't have a serious class analysis

Along with Herman, and drawing from Lars Shoultz, Chomsky emphasises that the US has historically contributed the greatest military and political aid to those regimes which repress labor for the benefit of US corporate interests, though the argument is made much more clearly by Edward Herman in The Real Terror Network.

After having read Chomsky, I was not surprised to learn of the torture tools Michael Huffingon (Arianne's husband) bought for the Indonesian military. For some reason, I always have this on mind when I see Arianna's smiling face (though the tv has been disconnected for several months now, allowing me to spend all my time with you folks).

Chomsky ends Year 501 with a study of class struggle in the US; before that he outlines new intellectual property regimes. The latter seems to me to be a study of class power, no?

> on occasion we know more about the intentions and the brutal acts
> committed by the
> American brand of imperialism than we otherwise would have known.

In what kind of cynical or imperialist world, could this be dismissed as a small contribution?

Just the detailed reports he has provided to Z on Haiti make him an exceptional academic. I always appreciating learning about how the post Aristide US trained military killed and terrorized thousands of people, how in the 1994 US invasion for democracy the US military confiscated reams of documents on the relationship between the CIA and the Haitian military, how the CIA has come to the defense of their trained assasins. Now I don't remember if I read this in Chomsky or not. The point is that I probably first read it there, and Chomsky is meticulous and thorough in his reportage of purgatory in which the wretched of the earth are trapped. There is no doubt in mind that Chomsky has made some of the mightiest blows for humanity with his pen in contemporary intellectual life.

> It seems to me either attempting to lionize him or demonize him,
> or even to label his political position is almost entirely beside the
> point and mostly a waste of time.

On one of the old marxism lines, I presented critical comments (e.g., he tends to view capitalism as a static system of power and provides no theoretical elaboration of the tendencies or laws of motion, as Marx put it, of the system; yes, he has no crisis theory, so we are left with a litany of how the rich exploit, how the big eat the small, how the powerful are hypocritical--Chomsky is very depressing and not very dialectical!). I think I would find Alex's criticisms most interesting as well.

> social change than to
> waste ones time labeling, lionizing and demonizing and labeling
> individuals.

Who has done any such thing with Chomsky on this list? I think the people who made that movie about Chomsky have some serious problems and perhaps Chomsky is a fool or naive or conceited to have allowed such a movie to have been made about him--you know the facile presentation of his ideas, the big stadium size pictures of him, the absence of true critical engagement with his ideas (while getting all high minded about how someone like Silber the BC president wouldn't really engage him)

I found the movie very disturbing.

best, rakesh

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list