On Thursday, 10th March 2011, Hicham Yezza, editor-in-chief of Ceasefire Magazine, conducted an interview with world-renowned linguist, philosopher and political analyst Noam Chomsky.
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Noam Chomsky interviewed by Luke Savage
The Varsity: I thought we could start with the recent upheavals in the Middle East. Could you discuss recent events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere? What do you think is at the root of this regional upheaval and what are its possible implications for the region, and for the rest of the world?
Noam Chomsky: First of all it’s worth bearing in mind that upheavals are really not new. It’s kind of like an infectious wave, so one started then the other broke out then another one did but each one of them has origins going well back. So take Egypt, the most important country. The demonstration in Egypt — Tahrir Square, the January 25th movement — was initiated by a group of young people — tech savvy young people who call themselves the “April 6th movement”. Why the April 6th movement? The reason is that on April 6th, 2008 there was a major labour action planned at the biggest industrial conglomerate in Egypt along with solidarity actions, and it was all crushed by force by the very brutal security system.
Well, we didn’t hear much about that here, but it means a lot there, so that gave the name to the April 6th movement. What that reflects is that there have been substantial labour struggles, labour militancy against the dictatorship — trying to gain elementary rights and some elements of democracy. It kind of blew up on January 25th but it’s been going on a long time. And the same in the other countries: if you look there’s been protests, repressions, violence, torture, more protests. This wave, it actually got started in Western Sahara, but that was crushed very quickly by Morocco. Then it went to Tunisia. There, it succeeded in overthrowing the dictatorship, lit a spark, and then it spread all over the region.
And it’s very important. For one thing it’s, in many ways, the most dramatic [and] possibly significant democracy uprising in recent history. And it has a lot of promise, but plenty of problems. Some of the problems are internal, some are external. You can see them coinciding in the countries that the United States and the West are really concerned about: namely the ones that have oil and that have loyal dictators. If a country has plenty of oil and a loyal dictator, the West is going to back the dictator to the hilt, and that’s what happened in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain — which is kind of like an offshoot of Saudi Arabia.