Anarchism / Marxism debates

Brett Knowlton brettk at
Mon Aug 16 12:29:42 PDT 1999

This piece is massively unfair to Chomsky, and seems more interested in defending Lenin and the Soviet Union than getting its story straight. If I had more time, I'd do a better job of refuting their positions, but I'll just stick to the most egregious stuff.

>Noam Chomsky says: "One can debate the meaning of the term 'socialism,' but
>if it means anything, it means control of production by the workers
>themselves, not owners and managers who rule them and control all decisions,
>whether in capitalist enterprise or an absolutist state. ***** To refer to
>the Soviet Union as socialist is an interesting case of doctrinal double
>If there is a totalitarian or "absolutist" state-society within which
operates >a "Ministry of Truth," it is the United States -- with its educational >institutions -- and Chomsky is its "Obrian."

Chomsky would agree with the sentiment that the US has an extensive and effective propaganda system, although he wouldn't describe indoctrination in the US as being performed by something as crude as a "Ministry of Truth." As most people on this list no doubt know, Chomsky has spent a great deal of time and effort analyzing the US propaganda system and has been a tireless critic of it. To claim that he is one of the chief disseminators of state propaganda demonstrates either sheer ignorance or a willingness to distort the truth at others' expense in order to score ideological points.

>Perhaps the disbanding of the National Constituent Assembly (the bourgeois
>political power) in favor of the Soviets (the power of the masses of
>peasants, soldiers and sailors) is what Chomsky bemoans. On the contrary,
>do not bemoan this victory by the Bolsheviks but celebrate it!

Nonesense. What Chomsky bemoans is the way the Bolshevik leadership usurped power from the Soviets, and thereby from the people, and instituted an authoritarian, top-down political system.

>Chomsky's idea of "socialism" is workers' control of industry, "whether in a
>capitalist enterprise or an absolutist state."

This is a simple misread of Chomsky's statement. Chomsky rejects both capitalist enterprise and absolutist states because they _prevent_ workers' control of industry. Even passing familiarity with Chomsky's writing would be enough to convince someone of this. It is also a curious misreading of the given passage, given the context. Besides, they later quote further passages from Chomsky, from the same source, which suggests that this "mistake" is in fact a cynical and deliberate misinterpretation used to set up a straw man to be knocked down.

>Chomsky claims that, once the Bolsheviks realized democracy and Soviet
>they then destroyed it! This is unsubstantiated nonsense!

I suppose they would argue that Russia under Lenin and Stalin had a democratic political system? Chomsky is correct - democratic political organizations were dismantled in favor of the hierarchical party system.


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