[Marxism] Chomsky in context

Manuel Barrera mtomas3 at hotmail.com
Sat Jul 31 13:57:08 MDT 2010

Below is the entire message I meant to send. My apologies for the previous incomplete versions.

Thank you, DennisThis article was indeed very clarifying and I appreciated the opportunity to read it. As I do not often have the opportunity to hear Chomsky in person and his many taped lectures are not often available (or I am unaware of them at the time they were)--I am not a religious follower of any leaders, especially academic intellectual ones (my time with the likes of Camejo, whom I liked tremendously despite his flaws, and Barnes et al., whom I was always some distant toward, broke me forever of that kind of trust). Two very telling quotes from this article, one partly from Chomsky but mostly from Kfoury were:"In a recent interview, Chomsky elaborated his views on BDS in detail — “a tactic, one of many, and not a doctrine of faith” — and warned against equating careful evaluation of tactical choices with lacking principle."and
"If there was a common thread to all of Chomsky’s political statements on that trip, it is his conviction that it is not his role to lecture the Palestinians on what they should do. That is the Palestinians’ responsibility and it is up to them to decide. His responsibility, and that of supporters of Palestinian rights in the US, is to 'educate and organize the American public and to develop popular forces that can overcome the dominant propaganda images that sustain the US policies that have been undermining Palestinian rights.'"So much of the struggle for the freedom of Palestine has been awash with all kinds of "solutions" without any real adherence to the voice of the Palestinian people that it is very difficult to hear academic intellectuals "propose" or "advocate" for anything because one can never seem to wash out what Kfoury calls the "holier than thou" from their arguments. Being an academic intellectual myself, I am always keenly aware of this problem (and not always successful at avoiding it I might add). So, even as I can agree that the perception of Chomsky among folks like Kfoury is of one who is seeking to find the road for the Palestinian people to decide "what they should do", I find the "long term" strategizing  to which Kfoury refers (and that Chomsky proposes) has at least some ambiguous meaning. When Chomsky says (from Kfoury) "“It’s much better to have no state than one state. . . how do you get there?“Same with the one-state settlement. It isn’t that good, but better than a two-state settlement. Again, how do you get there? [...]“The only form of advocacy [towards a one-state settlement that] I have heard is in stages. Given a two-state settlement, which is not pretty but is within reason, it could reduce the level of violence and hostility, it could lead to more interchange, [...] it could move on towards some form of integration [...] in fact, at a regional level.“If there is another form of advocacy, I haven’t heard it.”

Chomsky's thinking on "long term strategy" as described by his stages theory of advocacy (at UNESCO via Kfoury) seems ambiguous at the least. It sounds reasonable, but I am reminded of the "reasonableness" of the Democratic Party and it defenders like the Jesse Jacksons, Communist Party, and Socialist Party, as well as that most "eloquent" defender of long term strategizing, Barack Obama. All of these counsel a "long view" of doing what we can now and, it is hoped, working toward something greater tomorrow. It just so happens that tomorrow always comes but the "something greater" never does. I will grant that a long view described and acted upon by a dedicated revolutionist is much different than the lesser-evil "long view" that is only a mask for maintaining the rule of capitalism. Hence, I am also willing to grant that Chomsky's deeds have been consistent and antithetical to imperialism. It's just that so much of those deeds are words. As a "Chicano internationalist", which is to say, a Marxist with the emotional urgency of ending capitalist oppression, I can resonate with, but never completely trust only the words of anyone including those who stand with "you". Perhaps Chomsky is just tripping over his long view, intellectual pursuits, and activism (an analytical view). Or, perhaps he is angling to engage in his own form of shuttle diplomacy like every other politician, albeit an academic politician (a cynical view). Or, simply he just can't be totally comprehended by his words alone, but his heart is in the right place, so, we should afford him the respect of his contribution (a solidarity view that I prefer and would like to hold). What Noam Chomsky *says* is open to much interpretation. All the expected proponents (like Kfoury) and opponents are doing just that. 

In any case, professor Chomsky's contributions and clearly (well, more clearly)explained views on the range of "tools" in the struggle for Palestinian self-determination are an important part of the "voice" that is needed. If he is true to his intent (at least as how Kfoury and others might see that intent), then the historical record will speak for itself. . . But then so it is for the rest of us.


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