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Noam Chomsky: Libertarian Socialism + The Relevance of Anarcho-syndicalism (1976)

Dandelion Salad

buddhagem
November 17, 2009

Libertarian Socialism Part 1

Pt 2

Pt 3

Pt 4

Pt 5

***

The Relevance of Anarcho-syndicalism

Noam Chomsky interviewed by Peter Jay
The Jay Interview, July 25, 1976

QUESTION: Professor Chomsky, perhaps we should start by trying to define what is not meant by anarchism — the word anarchy is derived, after all, from the Greek, literally meaning “no government.” Now, presumably people who talk about anarchy or anarchism as a system of political philosophy don’t just mean that, as it were, as of January 1st next year, government as we now understand it will suddenly cease; there would be no police, no rules of the road, no laws, no tax collectors, no post office, and so forth. Presumably, it means something more complicated than that.

CHOMSKY: Well, yes to some of those questions, no to others. They may very well mean no policemen, but I don’t think they would mean no rules of the road. In fact, I should say to begin with that the term anarchism is used to cover quite a range of political ideas, but I would prefer to think of it as the libertarian left, and from that point of view anarchism can be conceived as a kind of voluntary socialism, that is, as libertarian socialist or anarcho-syndicalist or communist anarchist, in the tradition of, say, Bakunin and Kropotkin and others. They had in mind a highly organized form of society, but a society that was organized on the basis of organic units, organic communities. And generally, they meant by that the workplace and the neighborhood, and from those two basic units there could derive through federal arrangements a highly integrated kind of social organization which might be national or even international in scope. And these decisions could be made over a substantial range, but by delegates who are always part of the organic community from which they come, to which they return, and in which, in fact, they live.

QUESTION: So it doesn’t mean a society in which there is, literally speaking, no government, so much as a society in which the primary source of authority comes, as it were, from the bottom up, and not the top down. Whereas representative democracy, as we have it in the United States and in Britain, would be regarded as a from-the-top-down authority, even though ultimately the voters decide.

[...]

via The Relevance of Anarcho-syndicalism, Noam Chomsky interviewed by Peter Jay.

see

Noam Chomsky on Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox

Noam Chomsky & the Workers Solidarity Movement discuss politics over breakfast

Industrial Worker (IWW Newspaper) interviews Noam Chomsky

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6 Responses

  1. [...] Noam Chomsky: Libertarian Socialism + The Relevance of Anarcho-syndicalism (1976) [...]

  2. ~”what is the evidence for ‘destructive tendencies’ in the human species ther than actual destructiveness which might have other explanations?”

    What other explanations ? The same tendencies including cold blooded murder are exhibited by other primates? That unfortunately envy, greed, hubris are part and parcel of the human condition?That under any form of government there will be malcontents, struggles for power, severe disagreements on policy and planning? Your notion that man is always and innately “good” is demonstrably false.

    ~And why assume that intelligence is a low and fixed quantity?

    I didn’t say intelligence was low. I didn’t say it was a fixed quantity. What I said was the “overestimation of intelligence” of the human species, which means I believe Chomsky gives human beings too much credit for being able to make intelligent choices on the level his model would delegate.

    ~Or that the division of labour is unmodifiable by human ingenuity when it was created by it?

    I didn’t say the division of labor … I said the “specialization” of labor by which I meant that certain tasks like brain surgery need be done by specialists. Would you have Woody Allen play center for the Nicks and George Bush write screenplays?

    ~ One violent individual can force a whole group to respond with either fight or flight, or where neither are possible, cowed obedience.

    Exactly why a model like Chomsky’s probably wouldn’t be durable over time.

    The whole exercise is subordinate to the human animal, his strengths, his weaknesses played out on planet earth with each people having different environments, resources.

  3. [...] Noam Chomsky: Libertarian Socialism + The Relevance of Anarcho-syndicalism (1976)

  4. [...] Noam Chomsky: Libertarian Socialism + The Relevance of Anarcho-syndicalism (1976) [...]

  5. I think Chomsky fails on two fronts. The overestimation of intelligence and the underestimation of the destructive tendencies of the human species. In his example of Spain circa 1936 one can not know if such a scheme would have lasted over the long haul.

    Man, as an animal has always specialized, first by gender then by specific talents. This specialization has generated efficiencies of scale and effort such that a people could be more secure and more sufficient in the task of survival due to specialized knowledge.

    The question is: What is an equitable scheme of running a society and an economy and how do we insure its longevity?

    • On the reply by mmckinl, what is the evidence for ‘destructive tendencies’ in the human species ther than actual destructiveness which might have other explanations? And why assume that intelligence is a low and fixed quantity? Or that the division of labour is unmodifiable by human ingenuity when it was created by it?
      I think it is equally plausible to suggest that greed, sadism, etc are the perverse property of a disruptive minority who thereby have ended up running things thus far. One violent individual can force a whole group to respond with either fight or flight, or where neither are possible, cowed obedience. Such minority rule, by the way, is not ‘efficiency’ and may yet destroy us all.

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