Forwarded from Paul Dillon

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon May 19 08:15:36 MDT 2003


> Louis,
>
> Thanks for the links.
>
> I respect the activist orientation but also feel that, especially in the
> U.S., Zizek provides some tools that do help break through the hegemonic
> wall .
>
> Paul H. Dillon

Honestly, I think that what breaks through the hegemonic wall are
exactly the mass actions that our subscribers are involved with. When I
got involved with the Vietnam antiwar movement in 1967, the prevailing
attitude was that we were defending the freedom of the South Vietnamese
people and preventing the domino effect. In other words, if you
substitute Islamic fundamentalist for Communist, you get the same excuse
for war that you get today.

No amount of "critique" would have changed peoples' minds. Minds were
changed through a combination of battlefield reversals and mass
demonstrations. Within the ferment that this gave rise to, students and
eventually the masses, found themselves receptive to the sort of
analysis being put forward by a Howard Zinn or a Noam Chomsky.

That is one of the reasons I took violent exception to Zizek's dismissal
of Noam Chomsky in eserver.org/bs/59/zizek.html. Doug Henwood, who
conducted the interview, asks, "Chomsky and people like him seem to
think that if we just got the facts out there, things would almost take
care of themselves. Why is this wrong? Why aren't 'the facts' enough?"

Zizek's reply is extraordinary:

"Let me give you a very naive answer. I think that basically the facts
are already known. Let's take Chomsky's analyses of how the CIA
intervened in Nicaragua. OK, (he provides) a lot of details, yes, but
did I learn anything fundamentally new? It's exactly what I'd expected:
the CIA was playing a very dirty game. Of course it's more convincing if
you learn the dirty details. But I don't think that we really learned
anything dramatically new there. I don't think that merely 'knowing the
facts' can really change people's perceptions."

Unfortunately, the facts *are not known*. As Chomsky put it recently,
propaganda in a democracy plays the same role as repression in a
totalitarian state. We are seeing a brutal attack on alternative sources
of information, starting with the attempt to turn Pacifica Radio into
NPR light. The New Yorker Magazine has been wrenched to the right. Fox
TV is shaping the agenda of the other networks. The Washington Post and
the NY Times are shifting measurably to the right as well.

Although I don't have much use for the anarcho-libertarianism of many of
the Z Magazine intellectuals, starting with Chomsky and Zinn, I do
respect their goal, which is to present the *facts* to the American
people, using the venues that make the most difference. Church
basements, the campus, the Internet, Pacifica Radio, trade union halls, etc.

By contrast, the Marxist intelligentsia tends to talk to itself at
places like the yearly Socialist Scholars Conference. Unless it finds a
way to develop organic intellectual type links in the fashion of a
Howard Zinn or a Noam Chomsky, it will be doing a disservice to the
traditions of revolutionary Marxism.



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