Chomsky's Slide Into Reactionary Liberalism Continues

“I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime,” Chomsky added. “I am old enough to remember the 1930s. My whole family was unemployed. There were far more desperate conditions than today. But it was hopeful. People had hope. The CIO was organizing. No one wants to say it anymore but the Communist Party was the spearhead for labor and civil rights organizing. Even things like giving my unemployed seamstress aunt a week in the country. It was a life. There is nothing like that now. The mood of the country is frightening. The level of anger, frustration and hatred of institutions is not organized in a constructive way. It is going off into self-destructive fantasies.”

Umm, excuse me, but since when does an anarchist get upset about “hatred of institutions”? And how in God’s name do the Tea Party dullards and Rush Limbaugh fans compare to the upheaval’s of the 60s? Those years included regular armed combat between the police and the Black Panthers, violent street fights between cops and student protesters, seizure of the grounds of major university campuses like Columbia and Yale by student rebels, gunning down student protesters by the National Guard at Kent State, assassinations of major public officials like the Kennedys and King, the Weathermen bombing the Capitol building in D.C., vigilante killings of civil rights protesters by the KKK, tens of thousands of Americans killed in Vietnam, antiwar protests with hundreds of thousands of marchers, COINTELPRO, assassination of radical leaders like Fred Hampton by the FBI, assassinations of cops by black militants, and too much more to mention.

I would agree with Chomsky that today the vanguard of militant protest has moved from the far Left to the far Right, which is why I’ve made a similar move throughout my radical career. Has Noam ever considered that maybe there’s a good reason for that? That maybe the Left and liberalism has become a reactionary force? That maybe there are issues that the Left is worthless on and does not address? Noam is starting sound a lot like right-wing conservatives talking about the antiwar movement in the 60s, and damn if Chomsky’s rhetoric doesn’t sound a lot like Bill Clinton.

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18 replies »

  1. If we are indeed living in America’s Weimar era, does that make you and others in this circle modern America’s equivalent to the Conservative Revolutionaries?

    I highly doubt that blacks and illegal immigrants would be the scapegoats if the fascist explosion Chomsky envisions were to occur.

  2. “I highly doubt that blacks and illegal immigrants would be the scapegoats if the fascist explosion Chomsky envisions were to occur.”

    It’s funny how the Left assumes that totalitarianism will only go in one direction (i.e., Hitler) and can only victimise certain groups of people, despite the grotesque level of evidence to the former (e.g., the entire history of Communism in practice).

  3. “It’s funny how the Left assumes that totalitarianism will only go in one direction (i.e., Hitler) and can only victimise certain groups of people, despite the grotesque level of evidence to the former (e.g., the entire history of Communism in practice).”

    That was State Capitalism, didn’t you know?

  4. Luke, I agree with that. It’s also funny how they constantly refer to “fascism” as if it were a viable threat rather than a closed chapter in history.

  5. Peter,

    Because the economic system we have will soon become state capitalism, and because the groups currently being targeted by the state are illiberal ones, does that mean we are headed toward being the new Soviet Union?

    Something to ponder…

  6. “That was State Capitalism, didn’t you know?”

    Of course! ‘Degenerate worker’s states’ one and all.

  7. “If we are indeed living in America’s Weimar era, does that make you and others in this circle modern America’s equivalent to the Conservative Revolutionaries?”

    Well, let’s not fall too far into self-flattery. What we and others are doing might be a prototype for something bigger in the future.

    “I highly doubt that blacks and illegal immigrants would be the scapegoats if the fascist explosion Chomsky envisions were to occur.”

    It’s interesting how those who came out of 60s radicalism just can’t get past their fixation on race. That’s one of my primary criticisms of the Left. It’s still stuck in the past and hasn’t kept up with the times.

    “It’s funny how the Left assumes that totalitarianism will only go in one direction (i.e., Hitler) and can only victimise certain groups of people, despite the grotesque level of evidence to the former (e.g., the entire history of Communism in practice).”

    The Frankfurt School theorists who were the primary influence on the modern Left were for the most part utterly silent about Communist oppression, all of their blather about the “authoritarian personality” not withstanding.

    “It’s also funny how they constantly refer to “fascism” as if it were a viable threat rather than a closed chapter in history.”

    They define “fascism” so broadly that it can mean just about anything.

    “Because the economic system we have will soon become state capitalism, and because the groups currently being targeted by the state are illiberal ones, does that mean we are headed toward being the new Soviet Union?”

    No, the emerging totalitarianism in the West today is of a unique and fairly original type. It’s not really comparable to Communism, because of it’s embrace of neoliberal economic ideology and commercial society. It’s not fascism either because of it’s contempt for traditional values of any kind. Instead, it’s a manifestation of a new kind of totalitarianism that is perhaps “softer” in practice than Stalinism or Hitlerism (Huxley as opposed to Orwell) and is rooted in the ideas of victimology and therapeutic culture. I call it “totalitarian humanism.”

    Therapeutism is represented by the pathological obsession we see with health crusades todays: banning snack machines in schools, de facto tobacco prohibition in some places, special taxes on fatty foods, the overregulation of alcohol, and of course the war on drugs. Victimology is the ever expanding laundry list of isms and phobias we’re all supposed to be up in the air about. Political correctness and all that. There’s also the medicalization of everything: pumping kids full of ritalin, labeling all of life’s problems a form of mental illness, etc. Another example is the feminazi takeover of the family court system.

    The police state built up around the wars on terrorism, crime, drugs, guns, etc. overlap with victimology and therapeutism in such a way as to create this new kind of totalitarianism.

    Of all the writers who have influenced my own thinking, the one who always seemed to have the most insight into this was Thomas Szasz. As penetrating a critique of the U.S. empire as Chomsky’s is (and I would still defend most of his work in this area) on domestic matters he’s just a run of the mill liberal. For God’s sake, he opposed Ron Paul because RP is against gun control and the UN. What kind of crap is that? This is a fucking anarchist talking?

    Szasz’s idea of the therapeutic state is much more original in content than Chomsky’s quasi-Marxist analytical framework. For instance, Szasz compares the medical and psychiatric industries with the medieval priesthood, compares the war on drugs with religious persecution, and compares the therapeutic-welfare state with Communism in the sense that while Communism was theoretically supposed to protect everyone from capitalist exploitation, the therapeutic-welfare state is supposed to protect us from “poverty, illness, racism, sexism, and drugs” (his words) and builds up an authoritarian system around these shibboleths.

    So to understand who the real scapegoats are and will be as the System slides into ever-greater authoritarianism, we have to identify those groups that are most incompatible with a state devoted to crusades against “bad health,” the various taboo isms and phobias, political dissent from these paradigms, and of course the broader crusades against crime, drugs, sex abuse, terrorism, and so forth.

    In many of my past writings, I have tried to really drive this point home. The enemies of the state under a totalitarian humanist regime would necessarily be an odd mixture of illiberal, reactionary and traditional elements, with other more conventional outgroups, people who practice behaviors that only recently were considered normal and routine along with economic scapegoats and political dissidents.

    This is why the state and its liberal cultural-intellectual apologists at present attack odd religious sects, gun owners, religious conservatives, racists, anti-Semites, fundamentalists, proponents of “traditional values,” Southerners, rednecks, etc. while at the same time attacking fathers, so-called “deadbeat dads”, sexual abusers (not genuine child molesters but say, a twenty something teacher who has an affair with a 16-17 yr old student), drug users, smokers, self-medicators, attacks fatty foods while simultaneously denouncing “fat phobia”, persecutes prostitutes while glorifying homosexuality and general sexual hedonism, slaughters and persecutes Muslims while denouncing racism and xenophobia, and other things that make no sense unless understood within the context of the therapeutic-welfarist-totalitarian humanist ideological paradigm.

  8. Because the Left regards everything as revolving around race, I should probably mention the role of race in the wider paradigm of the therapeutic-welfarist-totalitarian humanist state. On one hand, this ideology asserts that “racism” (meaning white ethnocentrism) is the ultimate sin and taboo, and wages a relentless war against it by demonizing the slightest deviation from left-wing racial orthodoxy, promoting an endless and open-ended war against discrimination, and encouraging mass immigration, and so on.

    Yet there are other aspects of this ideological paradigm and related policies that do impact blacks, immigrants, etc. very negatively. Anti-racism is a core component of this paradigm, but so is the welfare state, which has done tremendous damage to organic family and community life among the non-white underclass. A principle manifestation of the therapeutic state is the drug war, and the effects of that on the black and hispanic underclass is well-known. The crusades against crime that are used as a pretense for expanding the police state obviously impact these populations very negatively, as does the massive prison-industrial complex that is an outgrowth of these crusades. The crummy nature of public education in poor black areas is in part attributable to “educationist” ideology promoted by white liberals who think what every black kid needs most is guidance and direction imposed by some white do-gooder.

    While the System encourages mass immigration and uses it to its advantage, it’s also true that because some forms of immigration are technically illegal, so there are immigrants who do get caught up in the police state/PIC. Hence, the horror stories we hear from the “immigrationist” camp about medical neglect of immigrant detainees and so forth.

    American Muslims have come under attack from the terror war. The System can simultaneously denounce xenophobia and supposed anti-Muslim bigotry while waging aggressive war against Muslim countries and justify it in the name of anti-terrorism and the promotion of liberal ideology. Hence, American Muslims can run afoul of the police state not necessarily because they are Muslims per se, but because they are un-liberals and opponents of the liberal-capitalist empire.

  9. Another thought: Much of this has to do with why the Leftoids are so baffled by my own approach and outlook. As an anarchist, I tend to view politics in terms of “The State vs Those Oppressed by the State”. In a contemporary Western society organized on the totalitarian humanist model, those under attack by the State are going to be different from those being attacked by the State under some of the older models (for instance, American society as it was in the 1920s or 1950s).

    I think the Left finds me to be so objectionable for two reasons: First, they simply haven’t kept up with the times. They’re still stuck in the 60s and 70s model of “Straight White Male Christian Hegemony vs The Other People”. Second, as the Left has become status quo and mainstream, it has now been coopted by the State and has formed an alliance with the State for the sake of advancing its social agenda. Some of these antifa and anarcho-leftoid losers make profess anti-statism on some abstract level, but their rhetoric reveals they are, at best, Marxists under another name or, more frequently, simply vigilante liberals. Essentially, they are the equivalent of self-appointed volunteer cops for the forces of the same cultural leftism that the State so vigorously promotes. In the future, they will become ever more state-friendly, and begin to regard the state as the enforcers of their cultural values, while the groups that are under attack by the state will move more towards anti-statist ideologies. Hence, the rise of national-anarchism, tribal-anarchism, anarcho-monarchism, etc. on the radical right, along with things like the militias, and expressions of sympathy from hard rightists of the kinds that are becoming more and more frequent (some of the recent posts and comments at AltRight, for instance).

  10. Thank you for correcting me, as my analysis often misses the mark. Actually, the “conservative revolutionaries” comment was intended partially as a joke.

  11. Well, your analysis is usually far more sophisticated than most people’s, including most radicals.

    Actually, the long-term vision I have is somewhat similar to that of the Conservative Revolution, altered a bit to make it suitable for 21st century America. My interest in the Conservative Revolution came about solely by accident, as I had previously developed a critique of some of the pieties of our time that I found lacking: democratism, universalism, radical egalitarianism, the progressive view of history, the obsessive materialism of bourgeoisie society, the thinly veiled cowardice we hear in all of the “non-violence” rhetoric of the Left (and others), the varying component parts of totalitarian humanism. When I later discovered some of the writers of the Conservative Revolution, I realized there had been a whole slew of previous thinkers who had dealt with these questions.

    So when I started studying Schmitt, Junger, Spengler, delving deeper into Nietzsche, the Italian elite theorists, and so on I found these to be a real breath of fresh air.

  12. By “obsessive materialism of bourgeoise society” I assume you are reffering to middle class consumerism. I tend to forget that while anti-consumerism and anti-bourgeoise sentiment is typically associated with the left, it was also a historic feature of the anti-modernist right, as examplified by Yockey, Evola, Schmitt, and so forth.

    How is my analysis more sophisticated that most?

  13. “How is my analysis more sophisticated that most?”

    You’re familiar with the work of Szasz, the critics of cultural Marxism, the conservative revolutionaries, the national-anarchists, and so forth. You have an understanding of the relationship between state and capital, between liberal universalism and imperialism, and between cultural Marxism and left-wing authoritarianism. Believe me, that’s much more sophisticated than most.

  14. That’s a great summary of the chaos of the 60s [meaning, as usual, 1965-75].

    However, Chomsky’s quote hardly shows a “continuing slide” in favor of institutions. Chomsky has consistently argued, from the 70s on, that the liberal state is not the enemy of anarchism.

    Think of it in terms of “creating the Anarchist [not Soviet] Man.” What would happen if the State disappeared overnight? Chaos, followed by a demand for a new Leader.

    While the Right paints the welfare state as “enslaving,” Chomsky sees ordinary workaday life with the boss as enslaving. Liberal reforms, such as unemployment insurance and social security, should be supported by anarchist because they free workers from the slavery of the Boss and enable them to learn the habits of freedom.

    Take a look at some “free market” blogs: they hate UI. “There’s no unemployment, just cut the benefits and those lazy slobs would find jobs!” The old time Right, like Goldwater and Kirk, railed against old age pensions. Hell, Kirk didn’t even believe in insurance of any kind!

    Instead of being forced to take whatever job one can find, UI enables the unemployed to exercise choice, and even cool out, get used to not sucking up to The Man, and perhaps read some anarchist literature.

    In line with the Atlantic article Ean Frick recently referenced, so-called “right wing populism” would shrink government to the point where helpless individuals faced Goldman Sachs. This is NOT the “no government” idea of anarchism, which necessarily must imagine an empowered populace, and Goldman Sachs is considerably shrunk due to the lack of government propping up.

    As for shying away from “violence” and “terrorism” charges, one must keep in mind above all the infantilizing of America. The Wall St. Bear blog just today referenced this from the Economic Collapse blog;

    “Well, the truth is that the character of the American people is dramatically different. At the time of the Great Depression, the American people were tough, self-sufficient people who knew how to live off the land. Today, most Americans are weak, spoiled little children who will throw a temper tantrum whenever anyone tries to take their toys away. The character of the American people has been decaying for decades, and there is no way that the current crop of Americans has any chance of weathering a horrible economic depression the way Americans back in the 1930s did.”


  15. “However, Chomsky’s quote hardly shows a “continuing slide” in favor of institutions. Chomsky has consistently argued, from the 70s on, that the liberal state is not the enemy of anarchism. ”

    I wasn’t really talking about Chomsky’s endorsement of welfare state measures with a populist flavor like unemployment insurance. I’ve been reading Chomsky for almost 25 years and, you’re right, he’s always had the same views on this matter. What I was referring to was his adopting the SPLC/ADL line about racism, fascism, “hatred of government”, guns, militias, “scapegoating immigrants” and so forth as the real menace to society, as if the Tea Party morons represent some outbreak of Hitlerism. Perhaps I should have been clearer.

  16. Chomsky doesn’t even get the 30s right: it featured quite a lot of armed conflict between the police, Pinkertons, armed private security goons working for the bosses and striking workers. It seems a common perception today that the 30s generation eschewed street protest, tightened their belts, spat on their hands, put their heads down and just endured without any anger or violence on their part or the repression of the State and its allies.

    For decades, Chomsky has aligned himself in pubic with Stalinists like Castro and Chavez so it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see him support the current Obama administration in taking down right wing crazies or talk wistfully of the CPUSA orchestrated drives: he’s the contemporary Victor Serge not Emma Goldman.

  17. The “march through the institutions” strategy has been attempted. The socialists tried it (and failed) via their strategy of industrial unionism. And the New Left attempted it in the 60s and have manifestly failed. Top-down strategies that attempt to transform hierarchical institutions tend to be vulnerable to institutional capture.

    Perhaps the primary drawback these strategies (a difficulty shared by the UBI) is it keeps the capitalist mode of production in place, supplementing it with a welfare state. However, just sharing the profits from fossil fuels, arms production, and war profiteering more equally among the population will not solve the problem. On the contrary, a healthy empire and a healthy welfare state tend to reinforce one another (soldiers will fight better if they believe their imperialism will give the conquered a better life). But once the threat of the Soviet empire dissipated, monied elites moved to export jobs and dismantle the welfare state, leading to a dramatic spike in inequality.

    Instead of the UBI, the reforms we need are democratic control of investment processes in addition to democratic management of workplaces. Democracy from the ground up rather than the top down. Socialism instead of social democracy. Democratic control of capital investment, rather than elite control of capital assets, is the key to curtailing imperialism and dismantling the national security state. That is, public banks that work for us.

    All that said I can understand Chomsky’s frustration with present-day trends as he believes (not without reason) that the media’s drive to represent “government” as evil is closely linked to the drive for corporate control and privatization of government services (eg, direct rule by banksters–direct corporate control of government). Some of the major goals of this privatization of government include the 1) privatization of all military forces so all major armed forces are private entities working directly for the banks 2) “free-trade” agreements favoring corporate rights over the will of democratic assemblies. 3) dismantling and undercutting traditional government services and replacing these with private monopolies 4) gradually rolling-back civil liberties and democratic processes moving towards a neo-feudalist tiered class system.

    If one fears the above scenario, then it is not entirely unreasonable to see old-school representative government as one of the few remaining institutions whereby bankster interests can be actively resisted.

    • Yeah, I think Chomsky overstates his case at times, and his contempt for neoliberalism sometimes leads him off the deep end (like when he said April 15 Tax Day should be a day of celebration-WTF?). But I think he’s also just trying to be realistic and pragmatic with this stuff.

      I agree with you that some kind of economic decentralization is greatly needed. I’m willing to hear all the contending points of view on that, from distributism and anarcho-capitalism on the right to libertarian socialism and left-wing anarchism on the left. I generally agree your analysis of the state of things as well.

      I think revolution from the bottom up is the key. If fact, that’s what this site is all about. More than anything we need a revolutionary program and strategy that’s capable of uniting dissident forces against the plutocracy and the state. But the Left in it’s present form isn’t up to the task. Instead, it’s just about the “who’s most oppressed?” pissing contest, and I haven’t seen much on the right that’s any better.

      As I say repeatedly, the “power to the neighborhoods” strategy within a pan-secessionist framework seems to be the best way to go:



      This is a paradigm that anarchists, libertarians, small “c” conservatives, and non-Leninist, non-Social Democratic socialists all should be able to agree on, along with people from most ethic and religious backgrounds.

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