Saturday, April 16, 2016

Chomsky on US imperialism, elections, Bernie Sanders

By Richard Mellor
Afcme Local 444, retired

This is an interesting interview with Chomsky and worth watching and I encourage my former co-workers who read this blog to watch it as I do all workers who have the time.

I don’t know too much about Chomsky, I understand he describes himself as an anarchist of some sort. One has to respect him and his views expressed here give a pretty accurate description of the present state of affairs. He is definitely on the right side of history.

It is the usual absences that jump out at me though. I have often found that for left wing academics and middle class, or what we have traditionally referred to as, petty bourgeois intellectuals or “progressives”, the big omission is any serious reference to the working class or that there is a working class at all. This can be understood to a certain extent as the working class in the US, especially the industrial working class is relatively dormant, but that is not a sufficient explanation for the omission. Plus, this state of affairs will not last forever, and the pro-business labor hierarchy will not be able to suppress the rank and file of organized labor forever. At some point this obstacle will be breached.

In a criticism of American Libertarianism, Chomsky says of the state, or what workers would normally call, the government, that it is, “…the only thing that protects the public from predatory capitalism to some degree is state intervention.”

But the state primarily defends the interests of the class that governs society, in our case, the capitalist class.  When a judge issues an injunction against a strike, or when the governor of a state calls out the National Guard to attack workers on picket lines, this is the state. When cops beat up protesters opposing police brutality or sheriffs are called to forcibly evict homeowners out of their homes on behalf of money lenders, this is the state. I would not call those actions defending people against predatory capitalism.

Of course there are times when the state does function in this way. It is, as Marx explained also an arbiter between the classes, between the class that governs and the class that is governed.  After all, without laws, the police and all the institutions of the state designed to protect the interests of the class that governs, workers, the poor, would simply organize, walk in the bank and take the money needed to live. The homeless would take the shelter they to need, the sick, the medical care. There has to be a certain amount of peaceful co-existence for the society to function and profit to be made, but in the last analysis it is based on coercion and violence to one degree or another.

The force in society that has produced the freedoms and standard of living we do have, has won concessions from the state and the ruling class, is the working class. Most of the legislation that benefits the public, sick leave, unemployment benefits, certain voting rights and public services that we depend on, arose during or after periods of great social upheaval like the rise of industrial unionism and the factory occupations of the 1930’s and the Civil Rights movement that followed. Historically, this is the case. When workers have united, overcome the racial, gender, religion barriers aimed to divide us and stopped production, halted the economy and profit taking, that is when the capitalist class, the 1% the elite, whatever we call them, stand up and listen.

Chomsky says of Bernie sanders that he is “doing courageous things organizing lots of people.” But he is also right in pointing out that Sanders will not produce the desired results. His campaign should be “directed to sustaining a poplar movement” he continues.

But Sanders has shown no intention of building such a movement. He is aspiring to be a candidate of the Democratic Party for President of the United States. No worker should support this. He has made it clear that he will support Clinton if the billionaires that control his party ensure she is selected. He has admitted that his “Political Revolution” amounts to encouraging more people to vote, for Democrats of course.

Sanders’ slight shift to the left with regard to the Zionists saying that the Israeli Defense Force was a little over the top in Gaza is sheer opportunism. So many of the young people that support him support the Palestinian struggle, including US Jews,  and he knows it. He follows that up with Israel has a right to defend itself form terrorists (the very same Palestinians he says we should respect he also calls terrorists) when it is attacked. How come he doesn’t call the IDF terrorists? Who has attacked Israel? What state can threaten Israel?  There is no threat to Israel. For any state to attack Israel would be suicidal as Israel and the US would destroy it much like it has Iraq. As for the so-called Hamas rockets, just look at the body count, it’s absurd to call this a war.* And the Zionists control the economy of Gaza and its environment. It cannot even get sufficient water without Israeli permission or fish in the waters off its shore.

As Chomsky says, “Obama is running a global terror program of the kind that’s never been envisioned before, the drone program.” How come Obama’s not a terrorist?

I have nothing against Sanders personally, even if he does consider John McCain a friend. But the working class doesn’t exist as far as he’s concerned either. We are all middle class. Well, more accurately we have in the US, the rich, the poor and the middle class. This is not an accident that the working class is rarely if ever mentioned. It is a product of this ideological war that airbrushes our history from society, from the schools, the universities and the history books. The rights and freedoms we have the working class of this country won.  From the Native American resistance to the slave revolts and the great strikes that built the unions, mass direct action is what works. There is no shame in being a wage worker.

Chomsky is correct to say that we have to build, “…movements that don’t pay attention to election cycles.”  Sanders campaign is a campaign to get the Democratic Party in to the White House and if it’s not him he will support then warmonger Hillary Clinton. Then as Chomsky says, the movement will die the traditional death. That is why we call the Democratic Party the graveyard of social movements.

Let us be clear, the power in this country will not stand idly by and allow their wealth to be used to pay for even Sanders’ limited reforms. They will wage a ferocious struggle against them even if Sanders were elected president. They will use coercion, divide and rule tactics turning one section of the working class against another; they will use violence if necessary. Sanders knows this.  It will take more than protests and a “Feel the Bern” rally to make the rich pay.  To realize even Sanders reforms it will take an independent workers’ movement organizing committees in the workplaces, schools, universities and communities, developing a program  armed with a direct action strategy that can confront the capitalist offensive with, strikes, occupations, blocking roads, halting transportation; basically shutting down economic activity. And it will take an independent party based on such a movement.

Some, including some socialists, call for Sanders to lead a breakaway left movement from the Democrats and form a workers’ party based on his platform. He will not do this. Even if he did, socialists cannot support it?  Sanders clings ferociously to US foreign policy and US capitalism’s politics. He has not called for an end to all foreign occupations, the drone assassinations or the massive military industrial machine. He has not called for the public ownership of the energy industry or any of the major corporations as Jill Stein (and others) in the Greens has.

Some of us on this blog, myself included, have called for Sanders supporters who are committed to voting this election to break from him, join the Green Party and campaign within this party for socialist policies and also to orient it toward the working class, including building stronger links with the trade union movement. (See here) The Wall Street Journal earlier this week quoted a survey that said 30% of Sanders supporters will not support Clinton if Sanders loses the nomination. This is a significant number and could help to energize the Green Party which, in my opinion, is not a workers or capitalist party and offer a real alternative electorally.  We opposed Sanders campaign from the beginning.

If, in the aftermath of the election and a Sanders defeat, a working class movement for an independent party arose from the remnants of his campaign then I for one would have to return to the issue. We’ll have to see what happens. We are definitely in a period unprecedented in US political history the last 40 years or so that I’ve been conscious of it.

1 comment:

Suzanne von Leuschner said...

Fabulous insight