Re.: Chomsky and Zinn on the Overthrow of Workers States

Chris Brady chris_brady at
Mon Oct 16 03:11:27 MDT 2000

Chomsky has clear ideas of the characteristics of his ideal society.
He is anti-capitalist, and anti-imperialist, not like Nader at all who
is really an updated Progressive.  Those outside the USA should note
the capital "P" because that Progressive movement is distinguished from
the small "p" progressives that we at times identify with that include
a broad movement of different ideological incentives, generally
typified as Leftist but often including more centrist liberals, social
democrats, democratic socialists, anarchists, and more single-issue
politics such as feminism, gay rights, anti-racism, etc.

I think we should accurately represent Chomsky's positions if our
critique is to have any utility. He is also anti-sexist, anti-racist,
anti-homophobic, anti-Zionist, and he was a leader in the protest
movement against the Vietnam War.  N.B.: he was a leader
even though he also is anti-heirarchical and anti-patriarchal.  You
could say he did not involve himslef much in the nitty-gritty of
organization, but he promoted it. He is afterall an intellectual.
{Note: Chomsky signed that petition that circulated this past week--
the one that chastized Israel.]

The major difference for us as Marxists is that Chomsky is not a
Marxist.  Of course I am not discussing labels but the substantial
characteristics that the generalism implies.  On the one hand, I do not
think we must expect the entire world to become text-quoting Marxists
before there is any possibility of working class-led, socialist
revolution. The problem with the anarchist notion of revolution is that
it rests more on hope than reality, and has very hazy, idealistic
notions of social power and how it comes about.   This topic deserves
more attention than I can give it here now, but I believe it is very
important to the radicalization of the (captive and captivated) masses
in the imperial centers to use the critique of the anarchist
intellectuals, and point out that specific structures must be created
by the working class in the initial stages of revolution to
redistribute the world's wealth, to disperse the clogged and festering
megalopolises, and to basically ensure that humanity gets itself
together with wellbeing, justice and peace for all.

re. ZINN:
As far as Zinn's bad opinion of the USSR you must admit that there are
enough Marxists who would agree with him to make that condition rather
flimsy as a means of exiling him beyond the pale of being Red.  Zinn
really is a US historian, not an internationalist but a decent man,
and deserves credit for his movement work and for his books that
have helped radicalize many US youth (I do wish, however, that he
could give his readers proper cites for sources).  He is a charismatic
speaker and a charming conversationalist.  He is very helpful and
answers all his correspondence as does Chomsky.  I know he is more of
a socialist libertarian than we on this list would like, but he is a
conditional ally and we need all the allies we can get.  I appreciate
the attention to detail we generate here, for to attain knowledge we
must compare and contrast, ascertain the differences as well as
similarities, but functionally, at this moment I think we should
 "agree with and add to" as a movement methodology rather than attack
first and wonder where all the movement solidarity went.

For example, the WTO/IMF protests: some would say they are relatively
spontaneous outbursts yet still a flash in the pan.  GOing nowhere. What
that analysis fails to recognize is that the pan is hot. There's a fire
down below burning higher.  I will make no omelet analogies; we should
know how to break eggs; it is easy; it is harder not to make a mess.
What we have to do is prepare the ingredients, add them correctly, stir
it up, let them cook and form, then get them out before they burn or you
get burnt.  Then you got something you can use that is of benefit to
everyone. Anarchists just seem to throw whatever is at hand into the pot
and then walk away boasting of their scalds from the Heat.  Good stories
around the campfire, but they are short stories, no full length work.

I guess I have an underlying rationale: we should criticise less people
and more action, e.g., Chomsky has some good ideas and has given us some
great work but anarchism is ultimately an impotent force for getting to
a stateless society (i.e., a society where the state has withered away).
He may have been wrong on Yugoslavia but correct in most ways about
Palestine and Israel.

Chris Brady

P.S.: I will try to find a short interview I did with Howard Zinn for
The Student Insurgent half a decade ago.  If I can I will post it and
you will see that he is not such a bad guy for us.  In fact he takes
some of the heat off the kneejerk reaction most American youth have to
Marx and Marxism.  We (as Marxists) just have to know how to turn things
to our (as humans) advantage.

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