[T]here are no voices of dissent. Nothing from the elites Zinn was battling in the academy and the government, nor the everyday people who may have resisted the movements in which he participated.The writer seems unable to grasp the fact that no ideology of totalism, no Manichean creed such as Zinn's can tolerate the possibility that other visions may harbor their own legitimacy; to do so would render it impossible to sustain the level of fanaticism required to buttress what is, essentially, a conspiracist's worldview. And even more than this, such a concession would require Zinn to admit that on a host of issues; on Vietnam, on Cuba, indeed, on the defining intellectual struggle of the 20th century itself; this "tireless skeptic of power" has been, unequivocally and without reservation or apology, on the side of the executioners. The fact that this patron of tyranny is being celebrated with only minor reservations in one of the foremost journals of mainstream American liberalism is, while perhaps not entirely surprising, nonetheless a disturbing sign of the times.
Like that of Michael Moore, Zinn’s often sharp critique leaves one grasping a fistful of questions -- and offers no real pragmatic alternative to our current involvement in Iraq or the dilemma of terrorism. Zinn and the film would benefit by sharpening their views -- on Iraq, on the scope of Zinn’s work -- in dialogue with those who disagree with them.
Thursday, July 29, 2004
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Contrary to popular belief, a conspicuous strain of anti-semitism has existed on the revolutionary Left from its inception; and it is to this tradition, and not its reactionary counterpart, to which Chomsky may claim precedence. This anti-semitism was neither subtle nor confined, indeed, it is possible to say without exagerration that, of all the movement's founding theoreticians, nearly every single one was an outspoken anti-semite to a greater or lesser degree. Among the most prominent was Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the spiritual father of anarchism and architect of the phrase "property is theft", who remarked famously that "The Jew is the enemy of mankind. It is necessary to send this race back to Asia, or exterminate it...By fire or fusion, or by expulsion, the Jew must disappear...", words so violent that Proudhon has, ironically enough, come to be seen by later historians as something of a proto-fascist. Another legendary anarchist founder, the Russian Mikael Bakunin, was no more sanguine than Proudhon on the subject of Jewry, calling them "an exploiting sect, a bloodsucking people, a unique devouring parasite..."; he was joined by the likes of Fourier, Duhring, and, especially, Marx, who I will return to momentarily. Unlike the reactionary, racialist strain of anti-semitism which began slightly later and would culminate in the Nazi regime, this ideology drew its inspiration from the writings of French Enlightenment anti-semites like Voltaire, who had in turn been inspired by pagan Jew-haters like the Roman historian Tacitus. Where reactionary anti-semitism excoriated the Jews as pollutants -- agents of corrupted modernity and "progress" undermining traditionally pure Christian, and later Aryan, society -- the revolutionary Left attacked Judaism from the opposite direction: as the primary obstacle and enemy of freedom, enlightenment, and progress. Where the reactionaries assaulted Judaism for its corrosive universalism, its cosmopolitan ethos; the revolutionaries attacked it for its particularism, its ideology of "Chosenness". In their eyes, the Jews were arrogant and separatist "haters of mankind", as Tacitus had put it, and the harbingers of oppressive, egoistic capitalism -- thus, Judaism was, in its very existence, a negation of the revolutionary values of universalism and egalitarianism. Karl Marx, the most intellectually creative and rhetorically violent of the Leftist anti-semites saw Jews "simultaneously as real-life agents of egoistic capitalism and as metaphors for the whole of sinful society." Or, as Edmund Silberner describes Marx's concept:
Judaism has contempt for nature, theory, art, history, and man as an end in himself. It considers everything as an object of trade...Judaism as such is for Marx an expression of a self-alienated society...As Marx saw it, capitalism was Judaism and Judaism capitalism:
[M]oney has become a world power, and the practical Jewish spirit has become the practical spirit of Christian nations. The Jews have liberated themselves in so far as Christians have become Jews...The Jew who exists as a particular member of bourgeois society is only the particular expression of the Judaism of bourgeois society...Out of its own entrails bourgeois society continually creates Jews.In Marx's eyes, the Jews are both creators and creation -- quite literally the excrement -- of bourgeois capitalism. As he concludes ferociously: "The social emancipation of Jewry is the emancipation of society from Jewry." In the revolutionary lexicon, of course, the Judaization of capitalism was nothing less than a Judaization of evil. In the 1970s, German Leftist anti-semite and sometime collaborator with the PLO Ulrike Meinhof would sum up the modern version of this chimera
Auschwitz meant that six million Jews were killed...for what they were: money Jews. Finance capital and the banks, the hard core of the system of imperialism and capitalism, had turned the hatred of men against money and exploitation and agaionst the Jews...Antisemitism is really a hatred of capitalism.Thus, the primary act of revolution -- the annihilation of the capitalist system by violence -- becomes also the annihilation of Judaism.
Chomsky rarely steps beyond the boundaries of this tradition; in his eyes the Jews and Judaism are an inextricable part and personification of the oppressive establishment of the West. Or, in his own words: "By now Jews in the US are the most privileged and influential part of the population." [Emphasis mine - Benjamin] The Jews, and particularly their national/political expression in the State of Israel -- which Chomsky sees as little more than an armed outpost of American imperialism -- are a formidable tool in the hands of the established order, and earnest collaborators in its crimes. The Jewish intellectual establishment -- Faurisson's tormentors -- are viewed by Chomsky as traitors to the Left; closet racists and imperialists claiming universal values while secretly pursuing their own particularist interests. Their accusations of anti-semitism are merely a tool intended to silence honest critics of their unholy alliance with Western imperialism, and the Holocaust merely a rhetorical weapon to justify Israel's various atrocities. Or, as Chomsky himself puts it in classic Meinhofian fashion
Anti-Semitism is no longer a problem, fortunately. It’s raised, but it’s raised because privileged people want to make sure they have total control, not just 98% control. That’s why anti-Semitism is becoming an issue. Not because of the threat of anti-Semitism; they want to make sure there’s no critical look at the policies the US (and they themselves) support in the Middle East.Thus, to speak for the Jews becomes speaking for "privileged people" who "want to make sure they have total control", a trope so obvious its pedigree hardly needs mentioning. Of course, conspiratorial myths of Jewish power are not the sole catalyst at work in this statement; it is equally an expression of Chomsky's Third Worldist Manicheanism. For, while Chomsky does not deny the Holocaust literally, he does deny it morally. That is, he does not recognize the place of the Holocaust in the Western cultural ethos as legitimate. For Chomsky, the great crimes of history were not those of Fascism or Nazism but rather those of Western capitalism and imperialism; crimes all the more horrendous as they continue to this day.
And this leads us to the consummation of a horrendous dialectic. In Chomsky's moral lexicon, the denial of the Holocaust ceases to be an assault against history or a racist abrogation of truth and becomes an act of insurrectionary rebellion. For Chomsky, a strike against the Jews amounts to a strike against the established order, an uprising which, in the classic anarchist tradition, must be celebrated and defended as a blow for human freedom. Faurisson, as a partisan of the Palestinian cause; an enemy of this privileged, collaborationist Judaism and its suffocating power masquerading behind a mythos of victimhood; is axiomatically on the side of the angels and his enemies, therefore, nothing more than artisans of oppression and violence. The truth of Faurisson's claims, and the moral weight of his negation, is thus less than an irrelevancy. It is all a matter of who is on the side of Chomsky's holy innocents. But this is not the unkindest cut, the real crime at the heart of Chomsky's defense of Faurisson is not in his deference to Faurisson's negation but rather in the moral inversion by which he embraces it; for under the pillars of this church Faurisson's lie becomes an agent of justice and the bearers of truth -- those who touched the reality Faurisson seeks to erase, and lived to speak of it; and those extinguished shades for whom memory remains their sole memorial -- are defamed and their sufferings blasphemed. In this light, Chomsky's morality appears to us as nothing less than an embrace of murder, a genuflection before the assassination of memory; an homage cheerfully rendered, even in the face of Auschwitz itself. Saying perhaps more than he knew, Pierre Vidal-Naquet has called Faurisson "a paper Eichmann", if so, what are we then to make of this paper Chomsky, who hands himself over so utterly, and with such impassioned ease, to the cause of the assassins?
A note as to sources:
An excellent overview of radical and reactionary anti-semitism in the 19th century can be found in Revolutionary Antisemitism by Paul Lawrence Rose; the description of Marx's anti-semitic ideology quoted in the second paragraph is from Rose's book, as is the quote from Ulrike Meinhof. George Lichtheim's 1968 essay "Socialism and the Jews", found in his Collected Essays was also quite useful on this subject. Karl Marx's remarks from On the Jewish Question have been published in a small pamphlet called A World Without Jews. Edmund Silberner's seminal article "Was Marx an Anti-Semite?" is also indispensible. A good overview of the complex and often paradoxical relationship between the Jews and the modern Left is to be found in The Left, The Right and the Jews by W.D. Rubinstein. Pierre Vidal-Naquet's already mentioned Assassins of Memory is an extraordinary collection of essays on Holocaust Denial in general and the Faurisson affair in particular. Chomsky's remarks on anti-semitism can be found in this previous post.
Monday, July 26, 2004
Sunday, July 25, 2004
A wonderful denunciation; I wish I wrote it. I can only add that Chomsky's speech cited here rather conclusively puts the lie to the perennial excuse of anti-American intellectuals: that they are only criticizing American policies, and not endeavoring for America's defeat and the victory of its enemies. The urge towards absolute treason is not merely present in the speech, it is palpable, it fairly shrieks in your face. Those are the words of a man infused with desire for the violent slaughter of his country and its recreation in the image of a murderous totalitarian utopia. The fact that they are also the words of the primary intellectual guru of today's anti-war movement is not something we should lightly dismiss.
1. It's not so much that [Chomsky] says that he didn't read what Faurisson wrote; to me it is more that he didn't bother to read carefully or verify what the petition said. Any careful reader would have noticed the quote marks around the word "Holocaust" and seen that loaded word "findings". The drafter--I understand a Holocaust denier himself--was clearly trying to write a free speech petition that did a bit more than support free speech--he wanted to express some substantive support for the author and the author's views. But Chomsky could never admit that he should have been more careful. The principle that one is responsible for the expected outcome of one's actions is a principle that Chomsky applies to others and from which he exempts himself.
2. The utter hypocrisy (1): if he followed his own stated principles, he would have said that this is a matter for France to work out, because he needs to focus on his own official enemy, the United States. There should have been NO moral value, for Chomsky, in attacking France over this issue.
3. The utter hypocrisy (2): if he cared so much about Faurisson's freedom of speech, why has he visited, praised, and lent support to, countries with far less freedom of speech? Why is Faurisson worthy of a petition and a foreword, to help boost the sales of the book, when Chomsky has publicly praised totalitarian North Vietnam for having achieved "social justice"? Hundred of thousands have suffered far worse fates than Faurisson, for far less offensive speech, in countries Chomsky has lent his considerable support to. These are excerpts from a speech Chomsky gave in Hanoi in 1970 (found on many websites). Judge whether the speaker, addressing an audience to whom any freedom of speech is denied, can be called a champion of unconditional freedom of speech:
We saw brave men and women who know how to defend their country from brutal aggression, but also to work with pride and with dignity to build a society of material prosperity, social justice, and cultural progress. I would like to express the great joy that we feel in your accomplishments.
The people of Vietnam will win, they must win, because your cause is the cause of humanity as it moves forward toward liberty and justice, toward the socialist society in which free, creative men control their own destiny. More important still is our admiration for the people of Vietnam who have been able to defend themselves against the ferocious attack, and at the same time take great strides forward toward the socialist society.
Decent people throughout the world see in your struggle a model for themselves. They are in your debt, everlastingly, because you were in the forefront of the struggle to create a world in which the chains of oppression have been broken and replaced by social bonds among free men working in true solidarity and cooperation.
I believe that in the United States there will be some day a social revolution that will be of great significance to us and to all of mankind, and if this hope is to be proven correct, it will be in large part because the people of Vietnam have shown us the way.
While in Hanoi I have had the opportunity to read the recent and very important book by Le Duan on the problems and tasks of the Vietnamese revolution. In it, he says that the fundamental interests of the proletariat of the people of all the world consists in at the same time in safeguarding world peace and moving the revolution forward in all countries. This is our common goal. We only hope that we can build upon your historic achievements.
Is the person who gave that speech one who supports freedom of speech unconditionally? Is he one who takes responsibility for the expected outcome of his actions?
4. In his various defenses of his actions regarding Faurisson, Chomsky cites with approval his friend Serge Thion, and calls him a foe of all forms of totalitarianism, The last I heard, Thion had joined Faurisson in publishing articles that deny that the Holocaust occurred. Chomsky, so far as I am aware, has never stepped back from his support of Thion.
Monday, July 19, 2004
I read the text carefully and with an increasing sense of surprise. Epithets came to my pen, expressing, progressively, the extent of my surprise and my indignation...I shall proceed in order.There is little I could add to such an elegant and impassioned deconstruction. I would only note a small reservation of mine; it is something I have mentioned before, and Vidal-Naquet's shocked tone returns me to it now: intellectuals of the Left -- even sensible ones like Vidal-Naquet -- find it extraordinarily difficult to completely rid themselves of the influence of Chomsky's work on their own ideologies and their admiration for some of his stances, particularly on Vietnam. This results in an inability to clearly percieve the motivations behind some of his more extreme stances. Vidal-Naquet seems to ascribe Chomsky's otherwise inexplicable sympathies towards Faurisson to vanity, rather than the far simpler and more likely explanation that Chomsky harbors anti-semitic sympathies. Nor can he make the connection between Chomsky's intellectual authoritarianism and its practical political implications. An unfortunate shortcoming, but, equally unfortunately, not an uncommon one.
1. The preface in question partakes of a rather new genre in the republic of letters. Indeed, Noam Chomsky has read neither the book he prefaced, nor the previous works of the author, nor the criticisms addressed to them, and he is incompetent in the field they deal with: "I have nothing to say here about the work of Robert Faurisson or his critics, of which I know very little, or about the topics they address, concerning which I have no special knowledge." These are indeed remarkable qualifications. But since he needs to be able to affirm a proposition and its opposite, Chomsky nonetheless proclaims, a few pages further on, his competence. Faurisson is accused of being an anti-Semite: "As noted earlier, I do not know his work very well. But from what I have read - largely as a result of the nature of the attacks on him - I find no evidence to support [such conclusions]"...
2. Chomsky-the-Janus-faced has thus read Faurisson and not read him, read his critics and not read them. Let us consider the issues in logical order. What has he read of Faurisson which allows him to bestow so fine a certificate? For is he not "a realatively apolitical liberal of some sort" (pp.xiv-xv)? Since Chomsky refers to nothing in support of this, it is impossible to know, and I shall simply say: Faurisson's personal anti-Semitism, in fact, interests me rather little. It exists and I can testify to it, but it is nothing compared with the anti-Semitism of his texts. Is it anti-Semitic to write with consummate calm that in requiring Jews to wear the yellow star starting at the age of six "Hitler was perhaps less concerned with the Jewish question than with ensuring the safety of German soldiers" (Verite, p. 190)? Certainly not, within Faurisson's logic, since in the final analysis there is no practical anti-Semitism possible. But within Chomsky's logic? Is the invention of an imaginary declaration of war against Hitler, in the name of the international Jewish community, by an imaginary president of the World Jewish Congress, a case of anti-Semitism or of deliberate falsification? Can Chomsky perhaps press linguistic imagination to the point of discovering that there are false anti-Semites?
Let us now pose the other side of the question. What does Noam Chomsky know of the "criticisms" that have been addressed to Faurisson, and specifically of the study that he refers to, which I published in Esprit and which attempts to analyze "historically" the "method" of Faurisson and of several others? The answer is simple. "Certain individuals have taken Faurisson's defense for reasons of principle. A petition with several hundred signatories, led by Noam Chomsky, protested against the treatment Faurisson has recieved by presenting his 'conclusions' as though they were in fact discoveries. That petition seems to me scandalous."
The content of these lines leaves no doubt about Chomsky's motives. It is not a question of the gas chambers; it is very little a question of Faurisson, and only secondarily of freedom of speech. It is above all a question of Noam Chomsky. It is as though, by anticipation, Jacques Prevert were speaking of him, and not of Andre Breton, when he wrote in 1930: "He was, then, quite thin-skinned. For a press clipping, he would not leave his room for eight days." Like many intellectuals, Chomsky is scarcely sensitive to the wounds he inflicts, but extremely attentive to whatever scratches he is forced to put up with...
But let us return to the heart of the matter. Is the petition an innocent declaration in favor of a persecuted man that everyone, and first of all myself, could (or should) have signed? Let us read:
"Dr. Faurisson has served as a respected professor of twentieth-century French literature and document criticism for over four years at the University of Lyon 2 in France. Since 1974 he has been conducting extensive independent historical research into the 'Holocaust' [scare quotes are in the original text - Benjamin] question. Since he began making his findings public, Professor Faurisson has been subject to a vicious campaign of harassment, intimidation, slander, and physical violence in a crude attempt to silence him. Fearful officials have even tried to stop him from further research by denying him access to public libraries and archives."
Let us pass over what is excessive or even openly false in petition. Faurisson has been forbidden from neither archives nor public libraries. Does the petition in fact present Robert Faurisson as a serious historian conducting genuine historical research? To ask the question is to supply an answer. The most droll aspect of it all is that one finds the following adage, which has become something of a motto, preceding works published by La Vielle Taupe: "What is terrible when one sets out after the truth is that one finds it." For my part, I maintain -- and prove -- that...Faurisson does not set out after the truth but after falsehoods. Is that a "detail" which does not interest Chomsky? And if one is to understand that poorly informed, he signed on trust a genuinely scandalous text, how are we to accept his willingness to underwrite today the efforts of a falsifier?
3. But there is more still: regarding himself as untouchable, invulnerable to criticism, unaware of what Nazism in Europe was like, draped in an imperial pride and an American chauvanism worthy of those "new mandarins" whom he used to denounce, Chomsky accuses all those who hold a different opinion from his own of being assassins of freedom...
"I do not want to discuss individuals," Chomsky writes, and immediately thereafter, in accordance with the same double discourse with which we are beginning to be familiar, he attacks an imaginary "person" who "does indeed find the petition 'scandalous' [which was indeed the word I used], not on the basis of misreading, but because of what it actually says'. An elegant way of not saying -- and at the same time saying -- that I assault the freedoms of my enemies. For Chomsky goes on to say: "We are obliged to conclude from this that the individual in question believes that the petition was scandalous because Faurisson should in fact be deprived of the normal right to self-expression, that he should be harassed and even subjected to acts of physical violence, etc." It happens that what I wrote was precisely the opposite...The conditions under which Faurisson was brought to request leave of Lyon...were certainly regrettable, and I have said as much, but his freedom of expression, subject to extant law, has not been threatened at all. He was able to be published on two occasions in Le Monde. Thion's book, in which his theses are vented, was not the subject of any lawsuit, and if Faurisson is the target of a civil suit, brought by various antiracist associations, which do not all have freedom as their primary goal, such lawsuits do not prevent him from writing or being published. Is not the book prefaced by Chomsky...proof? Would he like a law passed by the republic requiring that Faurisson's works be read in public schools? Is he asking for all history books to be rewritten in accord with his discoveries -- I mean conclusions (findings)? Is he requesting at the very least that they be advertised and sold at the entrance to synagogues?
The simple truth, Noam Chomsky, is that you were unable to abide by the ethical maxim you had imposed. You had the right to say: my worst enemy has the right to be free, on condition that he not ask for my death or that of my brothers. You did not have the right to say: my worst enemy is a comrade, or a "relatively apolitical sort of liberal." You did not have the right to take a falsifier of history and to recast him in the colors of truth.
There was once, not so long ago, a man who uttered this simple and powerful principle: "It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies." But perhaps you know him? (p. 66-72)
Saturday, July 17, 2004
Chomsky's association with Holocaust denial is rarely mentioned in the American press (its much more commonly cited in France, where the scandal originated), and represents one of the ugliest points in Chomsky's career. In the late 1970s, in response to attacks on a French university professor named Robert Faurisson, Chomsky signed a petition which contained the following statement
[Faurisson] has been conducting extensive research into the 'Holocaust' question. Since he began making his findings public, Professor Faurisson has been subject to a vicious campaign of harassment, intimidation, slander, and physical violence in a crude attempt to silence him.Faurisson was one of France's most outspoken and prominent deniers of the Holocaust, and Chomsky's support for him, and in particular the language of the petition he signed, caused an uproar. This was exacerbated further by the publication of an essay by Chomsky defending Faurisson as the preface to one of Faurisson's books. Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz challenged Chomsky to a debate on the issue, and describes Chomsky's defense as follows
[Chomsky] tried to dispute the fact that he had authorized an essay he had written in defense of Robert Faurisson to be used as the forward to Faurisson’s book about Holocaust denial, but again had to back down. Chomsky took the position that he had no interest in “revisionist” literature before Faurisson had written the book. When confronted by Robert Nozick, a distinguished philosophy professor who recalled discussing revisionist literature with him well before the Faurisson book, Chomsky first berated Nozick for disclosing a private conversation and then he shoved him contemptuously in front of numerous witnesses.Its worth noting the background of Chomsky's beleaguered professor and where his "extensive research" has taken him; the following is from Deborah Lipstadt's excellent study Denying the Holocaust
According to Faurisson the "so-called gassings" of Jews were a "gigantic politico-financial swindle whose beneficiaries are the state of Israel and international Zionism." Its chief victims were the German people and the Palestinians...He asserts, for example, that the German army was given "Draconian orders" not to participate in "excesses" against civilians including the Jews; consequently, the massive killings of Jews could not have happened...Faurisson interprets the Naxi decree which mandated that Jews wear a yellow star on pain of death as a measure to ensure the safety of German soldiers, because Jews, he argues, engaged in espionage, terrorism, black market operations, and arms trafficking. German soldiers needed a means to protect themselves against this formidable enemy. He even had am explanation as to why Jewish children were required to start wearing the star at age six: They too were engaged in "all sorts of illicit or resistance activities against the Germans" against which the soldiers had to be protected.(p. 9)Faurisson also claimed, and sought to prove, that the Anne Frank diary was a fraud (p. 233). Along with this portrait of Faurisson, Lipstadt paints us a fascinating picture of some of his more interesting allies
Though Faurisson and most of his admirers are on the political right, they and their activities have been abetted by an extreme left-wing revolutionary group, La Vieille Taupe...Originally a bookstore, it has become a publishing house that shelters an informal coterie of revolutionary types. Under the direction of its proprietor, Pierre Guillaume, it has distributed periodicals, cassettes, comic books, journals, and broadsheets all attesting to the Holocaust hoax. Guillaume is France's leading publisher of neo-Nazi material.(p.10)Guillaume is a personal friend of Chomsky and has served as one of Chomsky's French publishers
Guillaume begins by telling us that he first met Chomsky some time in 1979, having been introduced by Serge Thion [a French sociologist who has claimed that the Holocaust is exagerrated - Benjamin], another member of the VT group...Guillaume told Chomsky about Faurisson at this meeting...Guillaume proceeds to tell us how helpful Chomsky has been to the VT movement in other ways. At a time when the VT movement suffered from ostracism on all sides, when, moreover, Chomsky could have published a French version of his Political Economy of Human Rights (written with Edward Herman) with a French commercial firm, Chomsky nevertheless stood by his friends of the VT and published his book with them. He, Guillaume, would have understood had Chomsky wanted to keep his distance from the VT in public. But no, Chomsky proved steadfast.The fact that a man claiming to be an advocate of peace, justice, human rights, etc.; a man who regularly ascribes Nazistic tendencies to any and everyone of whom he disapproves; has shown himself remarkably sanguine at the prospect of supporting, defending, even collaborating with the Nazis' modern day political heirs, ought to raise more eyebrows than it does. Or perhaps, in Chomsky's case, we've simply gotten used to such epic acts of hypocrisy. There will be more on this subject soon.
Sunday, July 11, 2004
It is fashionable nowadays to equate Fascism with Germany...Fascism is not a force confined to any one nation. We can just as soon get it here as anywhere else. The characteristic markings of Fascism are: curtailment of individual and minority liberties; abolition of private life and private values and substitution of state life and public values (patriotism); external imposition of discipline (militarism); prevelance of mass-values and mass-mentality; falsification of intellectual activity under State pressure. These are all tendancies of present-day Britain. The pacifist opposes every one of these, and might therefore be called the only genuine opponent of Fascism.I find this letter extraordinary because, with a few changes of names and dates, it essentially sums up the Chomskyite conceptualization of the War on Terror. It seems clearer and clearer to me the more I study his work that Chomsky and his section of the Left are as much heir to the revisionist school of anti-war intellectuals who grew up between the World Wars as they are to any of the standard schools of Leftist political thought. This also goes a long way towards explaining some of Chomsky's otherwise baffling sympathies towards the extreme Right. The following are excerpts from Orwell's reply
Don't let us be misled by names. Fascism is quite capable of calling itself democracy or even Socialism. It's the reality under the name that matters. War demands totalitariamn organization of society...Germans call it National Socialism. We call it democracy. The result is the same...
The corruption and hollowness revealed in the prosecution of this war are too contemptible for words. Certainly I will accept my share of responsibility for them, but I wont fight in a war to extend that corruption and hollowness...
Needless to say, we have no love for Fascism, and our entire attitude is one of personal resistance to all forms of Fasicsm, as they impinge upon us in concrete form. (Whereas Orwell swallows the concrete encroachments and waves his arms at a distant bogey.) Not only will we not fight, nor lend a hand with the war, but the "intellectuals" among us would scorn to mentally compromise themselves with the Government. Orwell dislikes the French intellectuals licking up Hitler's crumbs, but what's the difference between them and our intellectuals who are licking up Churchill's? However: we "don't believe in any 'defence of democracy', are inclined to prefer Germany to Britain, and don't feel the horror of Fascism that we who are somewhat older feel". I can only speak for myself, of coruse, but surely the "defence of democracy" is best served by defending one's own concrete liberties, not by equating democracy with Britain, and allowing all democracy to be destroyed in order that we may fight better - for "Britain"; and Orwell should not need to be told what, or who, "Britain" now is.
I am not greatly taken in by Britain's "democracy", particularly as it is gradually vanishing under the pressure of war. Certainly I would never fight and kill for such a phantasm...I feel identified with my country in a deep sense, and want her to regain her meaning, her soul, if that be possible: but the unloading of a billion tons of bombs on Germany wont help this forward an inch...England does not even know what she is fighting for, only what she is fighting against. The pacifists' "championing" of Hitler referred to by Orwell is simply a recognition by us that Hitler and Germany contain a real historical dynamic, whereas we do not. Whereas the rest of the nation is content with calling down obloquy on Hitler's head, we regard this as superficial. Hitler requires, not condemnation, but understanding. This does not mean that we like, or defend him. Persoanlly, I do not care for Hitler. He is, however, "realler" than Chamberlain, Churchill, Cripps, etc, in that he is the vehicle of raw historical forces, whereas they are stuffed dummies...living in unreality. We do not desire a German "victory"...but there would be a profound justice, I feel, however terrible, in a German victory.(p. 220-222)
Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, "he that is not with me is against me". The idea that you can somehow remain aloof from and superior to the struggle, while living on food which British sailors have to risk their lives to bring you, is a bourgeois illusion bred of money and security...In so far as it takes effect at all, pacifist propaganda can only be effective against those countries where a certain amount of freedom of speech is still permitted; in other words it is helpful to totalitarianism.Orwell's response is, I fear, even more relevant than his critic's attack. I see little difference between his proto-Chomskyites; with their fanatical relativism, self-hatred, and fascination with violence and totalitarian power that turns quickly to collaboration with political evil; and our own, fully realized version.
I am not interested in pacifism as a "moral phenomenon". If Mr. Savage and others imagine that one can somehow "overcome" the German army by lying on one's back, let them go on imagining it, but let them also wonder occasionally whether this is not an illusion due to security, too much money, and a simple ignorance of the way in which things actually happen...Despotic governments can stand "moral force" till the cows come home; what they fear is physical force. But though I am not interested in the "theory" of pacifism, I am interested in the psychological processes by which pacifists who have started out with an alleged horror of violence end up with a marked tendancy to be fascinated by the success and power of Nazism. Even pacifists who wouldn't own to any such fascination are beinning to claim that a Nazi victory is desireable in itself...
What I object to is the intellectual cowardice of people who are objectively and to some extent emotionally pro-Fascist, but who don't care to say so and take refuge behind the formula "I am just as anti-Fascist as anyone, but--". The result of that so-called peace propaganda is just as dishonest and intellectually disgusting as war propaganda. Like war propaganda, it concentrates on putting forward a "case", obscuring the opponent's point of view and avoiding awkward questions. The line normally followed is "Those who fight against Fascism go Fascist themselves"...
It is because I do take the function of the intellentsia seriously that I don't like the sneers, libels, parrot phrases and financially profitable back-scratching which flourish in our English literary world...(p. 226-228)
Tuesday, July 06, 2004
The military has pointed explicitly to the so-called "International Solidarity Movement", which operates cells in the occupied territories and also maintains several hundred members inside Israel, people who entered the country pretending to be tourists. Senior military officials said this week that two terrorists who conducted a bombing of Mike's Pub in Tel Aviv, killing several people, on the Tel Aviv Promenade, came into Israel as ISM members.The ISM is the same organization to which Chomsky made the turgid, and, in my opinion, blatantly anti-semitic speech cited in this post. Here's some more info on the group and their antics, including the following
[ISM founders] Shapiro and Arraf also characterized “suicide operations” as “noble.” in the January 2002 article. They stated that Palestinians killed in nonviolent protests will have died in a manner:Judge a man, as they say...
"... no less noble than carrying out a suicide operation. And we are certain that if these men were killed during such an action, they would be considered shaheed Allah…"
Sunday, July 04, 2004
The struggle for freedom is never over. The people of the Third World need our sympathetic understanding and, much more than that, they need our help. We can provide them with a margin of survival by internal disruption in the United States. Whether they can succeed against the kind of brutality we impose on them depends in large part on what happens here.
The courage they show is quite amazing. I've personally had the privilege -- and it is a privilege -- of catching a glimpse of that courage at first hand in Southeast Asia, in Central America and on the occupied West Bank. It's a very moving and inspiring experience, and invariably brings to my mind some contemptuous remarks of Rousseau's on Europeans who have abandoned freedom and justice for the peace and repose "they enjoy in their chains." He goes on to say:
When I see multitudes of entirely naked savages scorn European voluptuousness and endure hunger, fire, the sword and death to preserve only their independence, I feel that it does not behoove slaves to reason about freedom.People who think that these are mere words understand very little about the world.
Its quite fascinating to see Chomsky wholeheartedly - and apparently completely uncomprehendingly - embracing the Rousseauvian idea of the noble savage; precisely the sort of Eurocentric fetishization of exotic primitivism that normally sends the Left into paroxysms of indignant rage. This does seem to bear out the oft-repeated idea that the Left's aggrandizment of the Third World is born as much out of patronizing racism as genuine sympathy.
And I like the line about "internal disruption in the United States"; at least he's being honest for once.