Noam Chomsky – Radical priorities (ed. Carlos-Peregrín Otero) [2003]



1. (Libertarian) self-realization (vs. neoliberal acquisitiveness)

2. (Socialist) common appropriation of capital (vs. private expropriation)


3. (Popular) cultural transformation (vs elitist political revolution)

4. (Industrial) syndicalism (vs. any atavistic alternative)

A vision of a future social order is in turn based on a concept of human nature. If in fact humans are indefinitely malleable, completely plastic beings, with no innate structures of mind and no intrinsic needs of a cultural or social character, then they are fit subjects for the “shaping of behavior” by the state authority, the corporate manager, the technocrat, or the central committee. Those with some confidence in the human species will hope this is not so and will try to determine the intrinsic human characteristics that provide the framework for intellectual development, the growth of moral consciousness, cultural achievement, and participation in a free community.

Many of us, myself included, have criticized the North Vietnamese sharply in the past for alleged atrocities that were later revealed to be fabrications of American and Saigon intelligence.

General Assembly’s Colonialism Committee at the United Nations:

Westerners have often been baffled by what they call the ”xenophobia” of Asian peasants and tribesmen, a phenomenon not yet explained by modern anthropology, which seems to arise among groups that are subjected to saturation bombing, forced population removal and other modes of ”protection” designed by their foreign benefactors.

[Arthur] Schlesinger is certainly correct in judging the human rights campaign to be a success, but some questions remain: specifically, what is the nature and significance of this achievement? One answer is supplied by Schlesinger himself. He writes: ‘in effect, human rights is replacing self determination as the guiding value in American foreign policy.’

Turning from myth and propaganda to reality, what are the special features, if any, of the Carter Administration? […] All of the top positions in the government – the office of President, Vice-President, Secretary of State, Defense and Treasury – are held by members of the Trilateral Commission, and the National Security Adviser was its director… It is rare for such an easily identified private group to play such a prominent role in an American Administration.

Intellectuals come in two varieties, according to the trilateral analysis. The ”technocratic and policy-oriented intellectuals” are to be admired for their unquestioning obedience to power and their services in social management, while the ”value-oriented intellectuals” must be despised and feared for the serious challenge they pose to democratic government, by ”the unmasking and delegitimatization of established institutions.” The authors do not claim that what the value-oriented intellectuals write and say is false. Such categories as ”truth” and ”honesty” do not fall within the province of the apparatchiks.

It may be that governance is itself a function on a par with, say, steel production. If that turns out to be true – and I think that is a question of empirical fact that has to be determined, it can’t be projected out of the mind – but if it turns out to be true then it seems to me the natural suggestion is that governance should be organized industrially, as simply one of the branches of industry, with their own workers’ councils and their own self-governance…

And it seems to me, its best method of defense would be its political appeal to the working class in the countries that were part of the attack. But again, I don’t want to be glib. It might need tanks, it might need armies. And if it did, I think we can be fairly sure that that would contribute to the possible failure or at least decline of the revolutionary force — for exactly the reasons that you mentioned. That is, I think it’s extremely hard to imagine how an effective centralized army deploying tanks, planes, strategic weapons, and so on, could function. If that’s what’s required to preserve the revolutionary structures, then I think they may well not be preserved.

One aim of the remarkably well-publicized invasion of Nicaragua is presumably to induce the Sandinistas to call for Soviet or Cuban aid, so that the U.S. can impose a blockade and, if lucky, achieve something like the Cuban missile crisis, when the ”best and the brightest” courageously faced a probability of 1/2 to 1/3 of nuclear war to establish the principle that the U.S. has the right to place missiles on the borders of the Soviet Union… though they do not have the equivalent right.

In a totalitarian system, it is required only that official doctrine be obeyed. In the democratic systems of thought control, it is deemed necessary to take over the entire spectrum of discussion.

There’s even a technical term for countries that have a high rate of economic growth and a low ranking in human development. They’re called ”economic miracles.”

We know who developed and who didn’t. Europe developed, and those who escaped European control. Period. The U.S., which escaped European control, and Japan, which was able to hold of the West. […] The operative ideology of the global economy for hundreds of years has been what we might call really existing free-market capitalism, which means, market discipline is great for you, but I need the protection of a nanny state, except for a temporary advantage when the playing field is leveled in my favor, typically as a result of earlier violence and state intervention. […] In the eighteenth century, India was the commercial and manufacturing center of the world. India produced more iron than all of Europe. […] India had an advanced shipbuilding industry and the British admiralty actually very much wanted Indian-built ships for their own wars. But that was barred explicitly by Parliament on the grounds that it was necessary to de-industrialize India and develop British industry.

Ricardo, the great icon of free trade, understood very well that the theory of comparative advantage wouldn’t work if you had free movement of capital. If all capital could make more money by textiles in England than by wine in Portugal, to take the famous example, it would all move to England and you’d have no wine. […] You have to remember that even as late as Ricardo, this was pre-capitalist. People still had the idea that human beings had sentiments and feelings and cared about one another and all this old-fashioned stuff, and that they weren’t just driven solely by the need to maximize consumption and profit, like atoms of greed. This is all pre-capitalist mentality, like Smith, and even in Ricardo you still find it. Free movement of capital is a very recent idea. [Bretton Woods: restrict capital movements, increase trade.]

invidious = förhatlig, stötande


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