Noam Chomsky on Communism, Revolutionary Violence, the American Left and Zizek

well first off thank you so much for conducting this interview and for your many years of continued activism a solidarity over the past few years there's been a revaluation of violent revolutionary practices by some intellectuals on the Left what is your position on the role of violence in this case subjective violence as opposed to symbolic or objective violence in movements of liberation well first of all not familiar with the revival and I don't know exactly what's being advocated but is what being advocated that we pick up our guns and overthrow the government well basically some some some theorists have said that we should really look at the ethical implications of violence through the lens of for example the terror in France and bags it was justified what was done not during that time period maybe it was done maybe it was not done but it was done by a government after the government was established and it carried out a terror campaign basically against adversaries is that the situation we're in some would say we are in you know dangerous times with maybe in dangerous times but are you and I part of a revolutionary government that controls the armed forces and is confronted with oppositionists who we're trying to eliminate we're not in that position of course I would say so then that analogy is irrelevant okay so what is relevant the question would be is is violent practices justified for us to overthrow a government the social again should we take our gun Darren take our Daniel out and Street and start destroying Chase Manhattan Bank and well if you want to get killed in five minutes that's good suggestion other than that has actually nothing to do with the world so there's not even any point discussing I think it's a crazy idea of mice right but and but that quite apart from that it's like asking should we climb on an asteroid and attack the earth ok mate I don't think good idea but why talk about it so you think this sort of like 20th century revolutionary movements it's not just 20th century I mean it's very rare occasions when you can even raise the question right we're not anywhere near those occasions right if you want to raise the question about some abstract in some philosophy seminar ok can discuss it so we can discuss are there circumstances in which it might be justified to take up arms to overthrow a repressive government yes sure for example I was in favor of the conspirators who tried to kill Hitler I think that was good thing to do I was in favor of the partisans who were resisting the Nazis I think you give many cases in which resistance to oppression and terror and violence is justified I'm not a pure pacifist so I can imagine however I think it takes it carries a very heavy burden of proof I mean the burden of proof is always on those who choose violence sometimes the burden can be met in my opinion but it's a heavy heavy burden and as I say now we're in a philosophy seminar that did unrelated to the real world right ok but if we're talking about the real world which is what I happen to care about I don't see much point discussing it so I don't know what the revival is that you're talking about right there's in conjunction there's just been a renewed interest for example in the Jacobin legacy there's been a lot of new writings on reevaluating the terror into so the terror justifying the terror justifying Robespierre and his vision of a new friends a revolutionary France a sort of secular France that was cut from what had happened previously in history and so this is something of course that is promulgated by some in the left who have still connections with maybe 20th century communist experiments this sort of Leninist Vanguard ISM that came about and and what do you think is is the is the legacy that we still face in the left of for example jacobitism Leninism these sort of things they're quite different first of all in the case of jackman ISM we could discuss it but that's now we're back in a philosophy seminar an interesting one at this time unlike the other one which was not interesting so there's an interesting question as to what should have been what were the property proper actions to have been taken in revolutionary France I don't happen to agree with ropes fears methods at all but we could discuss it interesting historical discussion let's move to Leninism a totally unrelated and no relation whatsoever Leninism was in my view counter-revolutionary it wasn't instituting communism there was a popular revolution in fact there had been for years that in through the 1917 it grew very substantially from February on Lenin basically tried to take control of it he took a look at his writings in 1917 they went way to the left if or theses state and revolution the most radical things he ever wrote almost anarchist and my view and is it's basically opportunism you believe the word seems he was trying to associate him to come the leader of the revolutionary popular forces and we became the leader he didn't waste much time and Trotsky helped him in instituting a pretty repressive regime with not wasn't stolen but the basic elements of Stalinism they moved pretty quickly to dismantle most of the organs of popular power not overnight but over not very long time they were able to basically dismantle the Soviets the factory councils to convert feet labor of course the peasant revolutionary forces they were very much opposed to this incidentally as distinct from Marx Marx saw revolutionary potential in the Russian peasantry the urban communists like Lenin were strongly opposed to that in fact a lot of Marx's latest later work was even suppressed because they liked what he was saying but it wasn't Marx but they had contempt for the backward peasants their conception was Russia's a backward peasant society it has to be driven to industrialization and then out of that too not the iron laws of history will lead to socialism and so on but sometime in the future in fact they regarded Russia as a backward they were essentially waiting for a revolution in Germany the most advanced capitalist country that's where there should be a revolution when the revolution was crushed in Germany in 1919 by that time Russia had been pretty much turned into the kind of labor army that Lenin and Trotsky were advocating not totally but mostly foreign stuff kind of finished it off but when the German revolutions they realize that's not going to work so we have to do something else to drive Russia towards industrialization and shortly after that comes the new economic policy which is essentially let's introduce state capitalism but with an iron fist because we're going to drive them forward and this is a Lenin's vanguard ISM it was sharply criticized back in the early years the 20th century by Marxists in fact his labor some of his later associates and although some of the critics like Rosa Luxemburg pointed out that Lenin's programs they regard as free right wing and I do too was the image was that the via proletarian revolution the party will take over from the proletariat the Central Committee will take over from the party and the maximal leader will take over from the Central Committee pretty much would happen but you know not precisely but roughly what happened and after that use of terror to defend the repressive violent state has nothing to do with communism in fact Santa see I think this is one of the great blows the socialism in 20th century was the Bolshevik Revolution I mean it called itself socialist spend the West call that socialist in fact that's one thing on which the world's two major propaganda systems agree the huge propaganda system in the West than the minor propaganda system and he's one of the few things in which they agreed was that this was socialism the West propaganda system liked that because the way of defaming socialism right relating it to the what's going on in Russia and the Eastvale feed the Russian propaganda system liked it because they're trying to profit from the morrow or of socialism which was great real so they kind of both agreed on that and you know when the world's major propaganda systems agree on something it's kind of hard for people to extricate themselves from it so by now it's a routine that that was socialism all that had bizarre anti-socialist I remember when what late 80s was pretty clear the system was tottering I was asked by a left journal I won't mention it to write an article on what I thought was going to happen when the system collapses and our own article in which I say this I think it will be a small victory for socialism if the system collapses they refused to publish it they finally was published in an anarchist magazine so it appeared but because they couldn't understand that in fact I read some of the same things in journals here like the nation and they published it but nothing anybody understood it because this was socialism you know how could you say this is anti-socialist well it life is so much unique and the left Marxist said the same view people like Monica core course others who you know they got to marginalized and eliminate it because that's what happens to people who don't have guns but I think they were right the people who Lenin condemned as the ultra left the infantile ultra-leftist and they're basically right not at everything but that that's where a lot of the anarchist critics and the early on Bertrand Russell so it pretty well early on but you know by 1920 it was unmistakable even earlier earlier I'm not wasn't alive but when I was at 12 years old that super job is to me do you think that within the coordinates of the entire Marxist tradition there will always be this danger of going towards that edge you know I don't regard Lenin as part of the Marxist tradition frankly what the Marxist tradition is who knows nothing right but it certainly wasn't Marxist position I mentioned his belief as the in the revolutionary potential of the Russian peasantry certainly is a hint of that and Lenin I mean Ephraim Marx had a lot of different views right for example he thought might be possible to reach socialism by parliamentary means and the work where's what democratic societies England was his model of course didn't rule it out and in fact he Marx didn't have very much to say about socialism or communism in take a look at Marx's works very deep analytic critique of variety of capitalism captives markets the properties imperialism zone but about the future society a couple of scattered sentences and I think you know just my guess is for good reasons his picture was that as I understand that that when working people liberate themselves and can make their own decisions they'll determine what kind of a society will be it's not going to he's not going to dictate it to them pretty water spoon Franklin do you think that the the newer forms of say authoritarian capitalism where authoritarian communism existed once so for example in China or maybe in Singapore where it was a massive move against the left and instituted this sort of state capitalism but very regimented do you think that that's the new danger that we face it's a danger there many dangers like that I think it's pretty rotten system frankly and it does keep the streets clean and you know people get a good technical education and so on very repressive but I don't think it's admirable society by any means there was a recent article in January 2013 by Alan Johnson in writing for the Telegraph and he accused some of the leftists specifically Dziedzic of being left fascists of promulgating this view of totalitarianism and violence as justified within the Left tradition and something that we should reclaim in the 21st century and how does this fascination with violence terror and hegemony stem from the radical left tradition do you think that it's a part of it or do you think that it's sort of this offshoot the radical left there's a lot of radical left traditions but the ones that made any sense my view we're not committed to violence except in self-defense so if you manage to carry forward significant changes and progressive changes maybe rather maybe institutional changes and you start to function and there's an attack on them by former centers of power by outside powers and so on then the vengers of that's as I said I'm not a pure pacifist I don't think you should stop defending yourself when you're under attack but but under very special circumstances the idea of overthrowing existing forces by violence is a very questionable one for pretty good reasons I think in any Syria people talk about revolution you know it's easy to talk about but if you want over a revolution meaning is a significant change in institutions that's going to be a Karass forward rather than backwards then it has to meet a couple of conditions one condition is it has to have dedicated support by a large majority of the population people who have come to realize that the just goals that they're trying to attain cannot be attained within the existing institutional structure because they'll be beaten back by force and if a lot of people come to that realization then they might say well go beyond the what's called reformism effort to introduce changes within the institutions that exist at that point the questions at least arise the we're so remote from that point that I didn't see a point speculating about it and we may never get there maybe Marx has read that within parliamentary democracies you can use the institution's themselves to go to a sharp institutional change effectively some evidence for that so for example even in the United in the United States there are the beginnings of germs of what would be my view a real socialist a communist society like workaround enterprises the beginnings of industrial democracy you know popular democracy in all institutions how far you go well you know if it keeps going it does keep going and there is violent resistance to it then you could raise the question of using violence to defend it but if it keeps going it doesn't mean well resistance will discontinue it very good going off of that there is this sort of accusations I know since I'm a student as well there's a accusation from some intellectuals of students today in higher education that they're not radical enough or that they focus on single issues like LGBT rights or climate change instead of focusing on radical transformation of social and economic systems in their in their totality what do you think the role of a student and a university is in revolutionary movements today to be first of all to understand I have to understand what you're talking about then if your ideas are clarified enough to try to work to carry them forward so let's take these examples so it takes a climate change I don't think you can discuss climate change for very long without reaching a very radical interpretation of the nature of existing institutions and why they have to be changed there are built-in features of our existing institutions which are leading us towards disaster with regard to the climate built-in in final discussion of this and Marx if you like and so on but it's just part of market systems we don't really have market systems that's mostly fraud but we have partial market systems and to the extent that you have a Marshall a market system inherent problems of markets do enter into operation you can read about them in economics texts as a footnote that talks about market inefficiencies so what are the market in a well a lot of them at one of them which is not talked about much is that markets direct your choices in particular areas like say I can choose to buy a Toyota or Chevrolet but I can't choose in a market system to get a subway system that's a collective action market systems don't allow that so it has an enormous distorting effect on the set of choices that are available let's not discuss this inefficiency but there are plain inefficiencies even for the point of markets externalities virtually so for example if you and I make a transaction we'll make sure that we make out okay we're not considering the effects on that guy over there that doesn't enter into market transactions and those effects can be very substantial in fact we're right in the middle of one right now the financial crisis when big institutions like you know goldman sachs whatever when they make some risky transaction whatever it is if they're paying attention they'll try to cover their own potential losses but they don't pay attention to what's called systemic risk the possibility that their failed transaction that might bring down the system and in fact they really don't have to worry much about that because we don't have a market system so therefore they can run cap in hand to the nanny state and say bail me out and then that's what happens but if it was a market system that's it would lead to a total collapse this way it leads to massive financial disaster and then the nanny state comes in and bails you out up to a point with that those are externalities that's a much more serious one if say the business world say the energy corporations or for that matter both political parties who work for the corporate sector basically if they decide as they are doing that we should extract every drop of oil every of every bit of hydrocarbons from underground including tar sands and everything else they have another very excited about our euphoric you can read it in the newspapers every day David votes this morning both parties this will be wonderful little it will save us from subservience to Middle East oil dictators and Venezuela for which there isn't one particle of evidence but the Palestine and will be self-sufficient for energy independent for a century but man well this is slight externality will destroy the world okay but that's you don't pay attention to that in a quasi market system that's not part of the transaction the transaction is let's make as much money as we can tomorrow and for governments let's have as much power as we can but not well okay our grandchildren won't have a world to live in that's an externality it's not part of the system that's redundant here you can't run to anybody cap in hand to bail you out so that's but our this most inherent in the institutions we have and you can see it happening so if you look at it's kind of striking when you look at the world today there's if there's ever a future historian they're going to be amazed what they see in the early 21st century I mean there are a variety of reactions to very likely climate environmental disaster it is very likely in fact not very far away for us and there are a variety of reactions there some that are trying to do something about it so in the lead trying to do something about it are the pre-industrial societies the indigenous societies the tribal societies you know First Nations in Canada or indigenous people in Ecuador Bolivia so in Australia you know all over there in the lead they want to do something about it they are so for example and say Ecuador which is an oil producer the government is trying to get some support for leaving their oil in the ground which is where it ought to be so that's the indigenous societies then you look to the richest the most powerful societies in history and comparable advantages peak of Western civilization they're trying to race the disaster as fast as possible so you know this silly Indians want to leave their oil in the ground we want to get it out as fast as possible so we can wreck the environment for our grandchildren that's the world we live in now you can't go very far talking about climate change without running into fundamental features of our basic institutions so I don't think this dichotomy means much and that's ruin every other issue you look at – right you very quickly run into institutional factors that are deeply rooted in the nature of the society so you go quite quickly to it what's called a radical critique it's doesn't evasion do with violence in society issue right so do you think that for students today and in our universities it's actually in a society like that we live in today say in the United States it's important to focus on these single issues because they in themselves contain a critique of the system it's important to begin with the issues that interest and concern you that's just for any anything right but if you just look at those issues you're quickly going to get into deeper ones and I think you have to think of a whole range I mean nobody can be an activist working on everything you know right that's impossible so if you really want to do something you're going to focus after whatever they turn out to be but as soon as you do focus if you think about it you're going to find that you're facing fundamental questions about the nature of the social and economic institutions in which we live in the political ones and then you're going to link up with other people who are working on their issue and if they'll run into the same problems so I just don't see a contradiction this is where activism leads very good and so many people are asking in the wake of the Occupy movement how are we to rebuild the left in America today if it's even possible to have some sort of change and I'd like to ask what your vision is for a renewed left in America today first was a lot of activism and a lot of concern on all kinds of issues and probably more than the necessities but it's pretty scattered it's a very atomized society's all of the actions are scattered I mean right here in Boston for example it's very striking cliff talks and around different parts of the city they're places where they're doing the same thing as in some other part of the city but they don't know about each other it's it's amazing I mean I found it myself you know been involved here for activism years and years and long ago I was invited to give a talk and downtown Boston by a group I never heard of we're doing fantastic things I've never heard of it you know because it's absolutely downtown boys that's a world this is a lot happening it's got to move together it's got them find common ground the Occupy movement I think has been very successful very brief in a very brief period well months after all it changed the discourse in the country changed a lot of the perceptions of mentality brought a lot of people together it's contrary to its claimed it's active in functioning doing a lot of important things like actions on foreclosures even hit the news recently with being the first on the scene after the hurricane sandy and many things going on and that's all to the good and I mentioned before that there are other things happening like say to a development of work around enterprises that's could be happening right here there if there were an active movement it could be involved in similar initiatives which begin to take off but often are aborted because they don't have enough popular support there could give you some real cases of a good time and reaching out into one of the very good initiatives of the Occupy movement was the Occupy the hood spin-offs I don't know how far they got actually farther than people think I believe I didn't think they got very far but I have met groups activist groups working in the so called ghettos in the slum who were spin-offs of this and are still working and doing interesting things in fact growing so I think they're probably out there you know we don't hear a lot of course the media obviously aren't going to cover it but we also don't use our own options it's quite striking that you take a look at the left the last 40 years one of the very sharp criticism has had is of the media they don't do the things we ought to be doing that's true they're not to corporate media but there are offered opportunities always have been so when Congress passed the law for you four years ago I guess distributing rights to cable television there was a component of the law which required the private companies that got the monopoly which is very profitable to require them to put up public tape cable facilities and they did it so in Cambridge and Lexington pounds all over the place there are public cable facilities I've been on them occasionally there it's not CBS but you know by standards of most countries it's unbelievably good do we use them almost never almost nothing's no there's some things but like became you can reach an awful lot of people that way if you do something about it but you have to do it no and fosston again is an interesting city and there's a lot of activism but it's one of the cities that which has no public no has no community radio small things you're there but you know other lot of other communities have community radio that when you travel around the country and you see you see that in places where there is a community or a live community radio station with a lot of public participation and so on people know what other people are doing it's a way of bringing people together and if you don't have it it's scattered but you know those are not insuperable barriers the things can be done and I think how do that can grow whatever moving will go around things what the participants decided to commit themselves to very good my last question yes I won't keep you salam would you check in an interview to the new statement in 2009 said about you my friend told me Chomsky said something very sad he said that today we don't need Theory all we need to do is tell people empirically what is going on here I violently disagree facts are facts and they are precious but they can work in this way or that facts alone are not enough you have to change the ideological background I'm sorry I'm an old-fashioned continental European theory is sacred and we need it more than ever how would you respond to this claim you have a sensible I'm it first of all I quite agree that just spewing out facts means nothing and in our discussion here we haven't just been spewing out facts within the frameworks and with a frame of understandings and principles and so on in the European intellectuals is talking about half a concept of theory which in my view is totally devoted almost radically divorced from facts and radically divorced from theory it's mostly big complicated words that may be fun for intellectuals to throw around to each other but most of it I think it's jibber day.they honest truth it's not theory in any sense that I understand and I've been involved most of my life in the sciences were their theories and so on so I sure if you can find a theory that has some real principles and which are some interest and you can draw conclusions from them which you can apply to interpreting the actual world around sure it's wonderful but if there are such theories you know have you see them – I don't find them when I read the Paris postmodernist to talk what I see is intellectuals kind of interacting with one another in ways which are incomprehensible to the public and to be frank incomprehensible to me so sure let's have theories that have some intellectual content some consequences going to be refined change ly just a better understanding it's fine all right good thank you so much I really appreciate it

49 thoughts on “Noam Chomsky on Communism, Revolutionary Violence, the American Left and Zizek

  • Evil Czars starved people to death whilst they had lavish banquets then shot women begging for bread…
    That's how and why the Russian revolution started..
    Not some B.S. from Marx and Engels.
    Marx was inspired by the German peasants revolt in 1500 where people had no voice or rights.
    Nobility and Church made serfs out of all people as did Czars..
    Sadly Lenin and Stalin became tyrants and worse than the Czars.

    America had poor people with to much food and smart phones..
    Bread and circuses calms the masses . Shalom

  • On Leninism and revolutionary violence: Yes, you could call it opportunistic but then you fall in the same trap of early twenteeth century socialist debates. On a higher level: It was conciousely opportunistic. The main jist: The revolution might be around the corner (Marx) but then you also have to seize it, when the opportunity arrises. Lenins solution was the Vanguard. I wouldn’t agree but romanticizing the „real, spontaneous Revolution“ (Soviets, factory councils) as Chomsky does, doesn’t help anything. These were local organization with no perspective or capacity to defend the revolution against reaction. For instance their mere existence (for as long as they remained relevant) was only possible under the condition of bolshevik vanguardism and would have certainly been stomped out by the reformists and liberals much earlier on (e.g. Germany).

    But he understands that it all hinged on the failed German Revolution which should have lead up to the World Revolution. After that failed, Bolshevism (in itself problematic) turn into stalinism, which he describes pretty accurately, very quickly.
    But if he claims not to be a lazy pacifist then he could look at Leninism through the perspective of the great imperialist war. It doesn’t justify it but lets you understand it as a moment in history (talking about failed reforms or the impossibility thereof), especially if you consider the developments of the following 20 years (mostly the reformist and liberal responsibilities for fascism).
    Strange that its me who has to tell this to Chomsky but simply agreeing to whoever is to the left of something doesn’t make you righteous, it is infantile. Revolution is a terrible thing, but necessary for different reasons. Things are more complicated, mister Professor.

  • More importantly, on theory: So I’m in the other camp. That said, that whole discussion is mostly academic masturbation: Anglosaxons don’t understand that theory can be purely negativ (in the logical sense) and Europeans won’t submit theory to be the servant of empirics, ok…. (sorry, couldn’t be impartial on this one)

    Apart from that, yes, theory is almost without boundary, pure thought which lets you experiment with its vehicle, terms, and create some big words and sometimes also hot air. But if it hadn’t been for these experiments of thought we would still be talking about spirits in the trees, stones and rivers. Very roughly: Animism was a proto-science which was outgrown by Philosophy as a form of natural-science avant la lettre which in turn was outgrown by the scientific method, itself a philosophical theory. Something similar applies to „social sciences“, except that we haven’t yet outgrown philosophy, maybe we won’t ever and possibly we shouldn’t.

    I always wonder if the tradition of Critical Rationalism really is as banal and historically uneducated (especially when it comes to epistemology and history of ideas) as it reads but when I hear these anglosaxon intellectuals talk, I wonder no longer. Its just a retreat into a comfortable sense of objectivity. In german we call it „abgeklärt“ (as in the opposite of „aufgeklärt“ – enlightened). Sure there might be some postmodern (french – vulgar bashing on his part) thinkers that only want to impress their students with neologisms and fancy words but thats only as intellectually dangerous and practically ineffective as is this false sense of objectivity and practicality of WASP academia.

    Chomsky goes into lecture mode very quickly and all theory in this interview is delivered by the interviewer. Chomsky goes on preaching facts into the choir about how neoliberalism and market logics are not really being practiced and are used more as terms of repression for a much more comprehensive system of capitalism. We know that and so does the interviewer, but it doesn’t answer the question of how and to which extent students should become more radical.
    Also the problem of the scattered left leads right back to the beginning of the interview. One possible solution would be a strong, centralised organization which if it grew strong enough and if it would become actually effective at countering the current system would necessarily be faced with violence as it was in the early twenteeth century, which again leads to the question of revolutionary violence. In general, as with all emancipatory movements, democratic socialism (changing the institutions of representative democracy from within) only has a chance if it speaks softly and carries a big stick (potential revolutionary violence).

    Just had to get all of that off of my chest.

  • It's so great that you can talk about these things now. Never stop. If you asked me five years ago what I thought communism was, I would have fit this simple mould that Noam talks about. Most people do. Communism is very unknown to most people. They have this absurd idea that far left and far right are the same.

  • Brilliant exegesis by Chomsky of the compact history of communism, market transactions and "externalities," continental theory and the illusion of violent revolution, for those who bother to listen carefully and have not compromised their hearing with earbuds or their analytical capacity with exuberant egotism.

  • Anti-capitalism is nonsense, but I can always enjoy Noam knocking down blood-lusting, dogmatic leftist lunatics.

  • Death to Marxism.
    Death to Leninism.
    Death to Stalinism.
    Death to their fellow-traveling comrade ideologies in disguise.
    May their name and memory be erased.
    And the name of Noam Chomsky, be eliminated along with them.

  • Subjective violence vs objective violence ? Do you think it would matter to the person, who's face your smashing in with your boot ?

  • Poor Noam was expecting a sensible question. Instead he's treated to a festival of meaningless verbiage – subjective violence, praxis, theoreticians, etc. At least we were spared 'dialetical'
    Here's a word of advice. Ask a simple question, like. is violence justified? Please spare us pointless abstractions, and daft adjectives appended to every noun.

  • How true. We must work on the net in terms of accurate analysis to render the weak links of imperialism even weaker such as Latin America, Arab world, Iran and few others. The first world is still under the illusion of capitalism with a human face by means of reforms and ec. recovery. What a load…

  • Chomsky is such an academic. Many of the things he says touch on the independent works of activists who champion liberty and independence but he can't quite bring himself to depart from the tired old left – right paradigm. The new movements are beyond these tired metaphors. It is about working outside of the confines of liberals and conservatives.

  • The opposite. We're ages away from reform. Capitalism has been an untenable, decadent system since WWI. This has nothing to do with criminals. It has to do with class and their divergent interests.

  • It has nothing to do with logistics, i dont think you use that word correctly. What do you mean by it? I am trying to say with theun bbc comparison is that we fail in ours attempt to help other nations by not using the full fire power available through the vast sums generated through a state capitalist society. Instead it is legal to be rich while others starve. And the British ended international slavery, among the european powers, no question about it. It took nothing like a century though.

  • Well your criticism, if I'm reading it correctly, is either that it IS logistically possible or that even if it wasn't it doesn't matter to which I say that it isn't and that it clearly does matter or the alternative is a failure/worse outcome.

    Lets use your example: the abolitionists only focused on Britain to achieve their goal, and when they gained state power they were only able to end it in British domains (not the entire middle east) and even that took almost a century or more.

  • With any capitalist reform there's always a catch.By the late 1700s Britain was getting beat by the competition in terms of the slave trade. So abolition wasn't much of a sacrifice. In fact a ban on the trade was more than anything a sanction on Holland, Spain and Portugal. Besides Britain didn't actually ban slavery – they only abolished the trade. And Britain supported the South in the Civil War. 30.000 textile workers were sacked in Sheffield for refusing to work with American cotton.

  • Man you barely respond to my criticism of your focus
    power systems or mechanism or institutions or w/e are interlinked and thus a structuralist approach is a little to theoretical to my liking… We are not defined by our past by any measure, and this addresses your second point, at its base, without challenging it factually, but anyway the British Empire prevented industrial slavery outside of the U.S. and the middle east, pre 1860. We could surely achieve more now.

  • Well first it's important to say we're talking about reforms/revolutions against power systems, obviously wars and the media are part of it so it's not a good comparison.

    But that aside, as you leave your own country it does become totally logistically unfeasible.

    Just look at abolition movements even when they had state power behind them, Lincoln had to fight a war just end slavery domestically, it would ridiculous to say the US could have done it across the world.

  • i dont think it has much to do with logistics; if things are seen as necessary, they tend to get done. I see morality as being that justification. At the moment, we dont try for shit. The fucking BBC has got a bigger budget than the UN. 20% of the UNs budget is for combat operations… Nationalism determines that we dont have instant cause to protest and act when other humans are in need… do not talk of logistics…

  • It's logistically difficult enough to get basic reforms or revolutions in our countries, the fact is a concerted effort overseas would be totally unfeasible.

  • But what of our representatives tolerating for the most part lack of freedoms for humans of other nationalities, based largely on location of birth?

  • What the whole of the Ukraine had an anarchist uprising? But that's the thing with anarchist uprisings, they only seem to follow communist revolutions. What's wrong with launching your own revolution – without waiting for communists to do all the fighting. The reason being, your all reason for existence is to negate communism. Move out the way because you are achieving nothing.

  • No – they wouldn't. Ukraine is a reactionary, antisemitic, pope loving, homophobic backwater. Like today but even worse 90 years ago. Any democratic experiment would have been short-lived, It really is laughable how you ignore reality.

  • Does Chomsky really think there was some anarcho/socialist Russia on the cards in the 1920s? That's a pipe dream in today's Russia – never mind the twenties. Some countries are just more violent than others.

  • I think these questions are not so irrelevant to the West. All depends if the working class fall beneath a certain median. The old line about democracy being two sheep and a wolf deciding what they're gonna eat for lunch- now applies to the poor- not the rich. With the poor now making up a minority, democracy is fast becoming their enemy not their friend. If the middleclass continue to lord it over the bottom 30% – then the poor will have no other choice but to resort to political violence

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