[Marxism] Noam Chomsky on Latin American Integration

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Mar 6 08:59:01 MST 2006

(Thanks kindly to RHC's Bernie Dwyer for this.)

Noam Chomsky talks to Radio Havana Cuba 
about the hopeful signs surrounding the 
current moves towards Latin American integration  


This interview took place on the 8th February 2006 
at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 
Boston, US prior to the screening of Irish/Cuban 
documentary "Mission Against Terror" about the 
five Cuban political prisoners*incarcerated in 
the US for taking action in Miami, USA to 
protect their country, Cuba, against terrorism. 

Noam Chomsky, a long time observer and analyst on world politics, hails the
current emergence of socialist leaning governments in Latin America as a
real sign of hope for the struggle by Latin American countries for their
economic and territorial sovereignty. In this interview with Bernie Dwyer,
Radio Havana Cuba, Professor Chomsky points out that what is happening now
is something completely new in the history of the hemisphere.

He highlights that there is also a spirit of cooperation between the leaders
of several of the Latin American countries that didn't exist before. The
development of the World Social Forums can also be viewed as an
unprecedented phenomenon leading the way to more populist involvement in
issues of the South, such as poverty, disease and lack of education.
Professor Chomsky also reminds us that Cuban President Fidel Castro is
viewed as a hero in Latin America for his stance against US imperialism. 

Overall, for Latin America, according to Noam Chomsky, it is a time of
confidence and hope.  


Bernie Dwyer (RHC): I am reminded of a great Irish song called "The West's
Awake" written by Thomas Davis in remembrance of the Fenian Uprising of
It is about the west of Ireland asleep under British rule for hundreds of
years and how it awoke from its slumbers and rose up against the oppressor. 

Could we now begin to hope that the South is awake?

Noam Chomsky: What's happening is something completely new in the history of
the hemisphere. Since the Spanish conquest the countries of Latin America
have been pretty much separated from one another and oriented toward the
imperial power. There are also very sharp splits between the tiny wealthy
elite and the huge suffering population. The elites sent their capital, took
their trips, had their second homes, sent their children to study in
whatever European country their country was closely connected with. I mean,
even their transportation systems were oriented toward the outside for
export of resources and so on. 

For the first time, they are beginning to integrate and in quite a few
different ways. Venezuela and Cuba is one case. MERCOSUR, which is still not
functioning very much, is another case. Venezuela, of course, just joined
MERCOSUR, which is a big step forward for it and it was greatly welcomed by
the presidents of Argentina, Brazil. 

For the first time the Indian population is becoming politically quite
active. They just won an election in Bolivia which is pretty remarkable.
There is a huge Indian population in Ecuador, even in Peru, and some of them
are calling for an Indian nation. Now they want to control their own
resources. In fact, many don't even want their resources developed. Many
don't see any particular point in having their culture and lifestyle
destroyed so that people can sit in traffic jams in New York. 

Furthermore, they are beginning to throw out the International Monetary Fund
(IMF). In the past, the US could prevent unwelcome developments such as
independence in Latin America, by violence; supporting military coups,
subversion, invasion and so on. That doesn't work so well any more. The last
time they tried in 2002 in Venezuela, the US had to back down because of
enormous protests from Latin America, and of course the coup was overthrown
from within. That's very new. 

If the United States loses the economic weapons of control, it is very much
weakened. Argentina is just essentially ridding itself of the IMF, as they
say.  They are paying off the debts to the IMF. The IMF rules that they
followed had totally disastrous effects. They are being helped in that by
Venezuela, which is buying up part of the Argentine debt. 

Bolivia will probably do the same. Bolivia's had 25 years of rigorous
adherence to IMF rules. Per capita income now is less than it was 25 years
ago. They want to get rid of it. The other countries are doing the same. The
IMF is essentially the US Treasury Department.  It is the economic weapon
that's alongside the military weapon for maintaining control. That's being

All of this is happening against the background of very substantial popular
movements, which, to the extent that they existed in the past, were crushed
by violence, state terror, Operation Condor, one monstrosity after another.
That weapon is no longer available. 

Furthermore, there is South-South integration going on, so Brazil, and South
Africa and India are establishing relations. 

And again, the forces below the surface in pressing all of this are
international popular organizations of a kind that never existed before; the
ones that meet annually in the world social forums. By now several world
social forums have spawned lots of regional ones; there's one right here in
Boston and many other places. These are very powerful mass movements of a
kind without any precedent in history: the first real internationals.
Everyone's always talked about internationals on the left but there's never
been one. This is the beginning of one. 

These developments are extremely significant. For US planners, they are a
nightmare. I mean, the Monroe Doctrine is about 180 years old now, and the
US wasn't powerful enough to implement it until after the 2nd World War,
except for the nearby region. 

After the 2nd World War it was able to kick out the British and the French
and implement it, but now it is collapsing. These countries are also
diversifying their international relations including commercial relations.
So there's a lot of export to China, and accepting of investment from China.
That's particularly true of Venezuela, but also the other big exporters like
Brazil and Chile. And China is eager to gain access to other resources of
Latin America. 

Unlike Europe, China can't be intimidated. Europe backs down if the United
States looks at it the wrong way. But China, they've been there for 3,000
years and are paying no attention to the barbarians and don't see any need
to. The United States is afraid of China; it is not a military threat to
anyone; and is the least aggressive of all the major military powers. But
it's not easy to intimidate it. In fact, you can't intimidate it at all. So
China's interactions with Latin America are frightening the United States.
Latin America is also improving economic interactions with Europe. China and
Europe now are each other largest trading partners, or pretty close to it. 

These developments are eroding the means of domination of the US world
system. And the US is pretty naturally playing its strong card which is
military and in military force the US is supreme. Military expenditures in
the US are about half of the total world expenditures, technologically much
more advanced. In Latin America, just keeping to that, the number of the US
military personnel is probably higher than it ever was during the Cold War.
There sharply increasing training of Latin American officers.

The training of military officers has been shifted from the State Department
to the Pentagon, which is not insignificant. The State department is under
some weak congressional supervision. I mean, there is legislation requiring
human rights conditionalities and so on. They are not very much enforced,
but they are at least there. And the Pentagon is free to do anything they
want. Furthermore, the training is shifting to local control. So one of the
main targets is what's called radical populism, we know what that means, and
the US is establishing military bases throughout the region.

RHC: It appears, from what you are saying, that the US is losing the
ideological war and compensating by upping their military presence in the
Would you see Cuba as being a key player in encouraging and perhaps
influencing what's coming out of Latin America right now?

Noam Chomsky: Fidel Castro, whatever people may think of him, is a hero in
Latin America, primarily because he stood up to the United States. It's the
first time in the history of the hemisphere that anybody stood up to the
United States. Nobody likes to be under the jackboot but they may not be
able to do anything about it. So for that reason alone, he's a Latin
American hero. Chavez: the same. 

The ideological issue that you rightly bring up is the impact of
neoliberalism. It's pretty striking over the last twenty-five years,
overwhelmingly it's true, that the countries that have adhered to the
neo-liberal rules have had an economic catastrophe and the countries that
didn't pay any intention to the rules grew and developed. East Asia
developed rapidly pretty much by totally ignoring the rules. Chile is
claimed as being a market economy but that's highly misleading: its main
export is a very efficient state owned copper company nationalized under
Allende. You don't get correlations like this in economics very often.
Adherence to the neoliberal rules has been associated with economic failure
and violation of them with economic success: it's very hard to miss that.
Maybe some economists can miss it but people don't: they live it. 
Yes, there is an uprising against it. Cuba is a symbol. Venezuela is
another, Argentina, where they recovered from the IMF catastrophe by
violating the rules and sharply violating them, and then throwing out the
IMF. Well, this is the ideological issue. The IMF is just a name for the
economic weapon of domination, which is eroding.

RHC: Why do you think that this present movement is different from the
struggle that went before, in Chile for instance where they succeeded in
overthrowing the military dictatorship? What gives us more hope about this
particular stage of liberation for Latin America?

Noam Chomsky: First of all, there was hope in Latin America in the 1960s but
it was crushed by violence. Chile was moving on a path towards some form of
democratic socialism but we know what happened. That's the first 9/11 in
1973, which was an utter catastrophe. The dictatorship in Chile, which is a
horror story also led to an economic disaster in Chile bringing about its
worst recession in its history. The military then turned over power to
civilians. Its still there so Chile didn't yet completely liberate itself.
It has partially liberated itself from the military dictatorship; and in the
other countries even more so. 

So for example, I remember traveling in Argentina and Chile a couple of
years ago and the standard joke in both countries was that people said that
they wish the Chilean military had been stupid enough to get into a war with
France or some major power so they could have been crushed and discredited
and then people would be free the way they were in Argentina, where the
military was discredited by its military defeat. 

But there has been a slow process in every one of the countries, Argentina,
Brazil, Bolivia, all the way through, there's been a process of overthrowing
the dominant dictatorships - the military dictatorships - which have been
almost always supported, and sometimes instituted, by the United States 

Now they are supporting one another and the US cannot resort to the same
Take Brazil; if Lula had been running in 1963, the US would have done just
what it did when Goulart was president in 1963. The Kennedy administration
just planned a military dictatorship. A military coup took place and that
got rid of that. And that was happening right through the hemisphere. 

Now, there's much more hope because that cannot be done and there is also

There is also a move towards a degree of independence: political, economic
and social policies, access to their own resources, instituting social
changes of the kind that could overcome the tremendous internal problems of
Latin America, which are awful. And a large part of the problems in Latin
America are simply internal. In Latin America, the wealthy have never had
any responsibilities. They do what they want.  

RHC: Do you think that the recent growth and strength of broad based social
movements in several Latin America countries have played a significant role
in bringing progressive governments into power in the region?

Noam Chomsky: There can be no serious doubt of this.  Latin America has, I
think, the 
most important popular movements anywhere: the MST (Landless Workers
Movement) in Brazil, the indigenous movements in Bolivia, others.  That
accounts for the vibrancy and vitality of democracy in much of Latin America
today -- denounced in the West as "populism," a term that translates as
"threat to elite rule with marginalization of the public in systems with
democratic forms but with only limited substance," those naturally preferred
by concentrated private and state power.

For broadcast on Radio Havana Cuba in two parts on March 6th and 7th 2006.

*For further information on the case of the Cuban Five go to:

More information about the Marxism mailing list