Posted 9 months ago on Aug. 11, 2012, 8:46 a.m. EST by mayda
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The social movement of the day camps at public spaces and calls itself Occupy. You’ve called it the first major popular response to 30 years of class war in the US. What do you think has Occupy achieved so far?
Chomsky: It achieved a lot, in two aspects. It very significantly affected public sensibility and public discourse. The imagery of the one percent versus the 99 percent, that’s spread over right through the mainstream, that’s now standard discourse. And that’s not insignificant. It brings to public attention the massive inequality and the striking maldistribution of power. There are also specific policy proposals that make a lot of sense. Efforts to try to return the electoral system to some sort of something approximating the democratic process and not just being bought by major corporations and the super rich, proposals about a financial transaction tax, ending foreclosures of kicking people out of their homes, concern for the environment and so on.
And the second aspect?
Chomsky: The occupy movement spontaneously created communities of mutual support, mutual aid. The common kitchen, the libraries. That´s maybe even more important. The US is a very atomized society. People feel helpless and alone. Your worth as a human being depends on the number of commodity you can amass, one of the reasons for the debt crisis, and its jut driven into people’s heads from infancy through massive propaganda and public relations. So people don’t have much social interactions.
If you compare it to the Tea Party movement…
Chomsky: The Tea Party isn’t a movement. It’s massively funded by private capital. It’s a movement which demographically is not unlike what the Nazis succeeded in organizing. It’s petty bourgeois, almost entirely white, nativist tradition, with the fear that within a generation or two the white population will be a minority and those others are taking our country away from us.
The Tea Party succeeded in sending dozens of their supporters to the Senate and to the Congress. In this way they were kind of effective.
Chomsky: As long as they can be the storm troopers for the cooperate sector they will succeed. The Republicans mobilize them, like the religious right, they have to. The Republican Party, decades ago, stopped being traditional parliamentary party. It’s in lockstep obedience to the very rich and the corporate sector. But they can’t get votes that way. So they’ve got to mobilize these sectors of the population, also the religious right. But the republican establishment is a little bit afraid of them. It was quite striking to watch the primaries. Romney was the candidate of the republican establishment, but he wasn’t the popular candidate. So one candidate after another came up, Santorum, Gingrich, and they had to be shut down by massive funding, propaganda, negative advertising and so on. You could tell very easily that the establishment, the rich bankers and businessmen, they were worried about it.
Because of their irrationality…
Chomsky: Yes, take a look at German history. In the early days of the Nazis, the business community, the industrialists, they supported them. They were the ones who did smash up the unions and go to the left and so on. They thought they could control them. It turned out they couldn’t. Prof. Chomsky, you’ve been a public intellectual, criticizing US domestic and foreign policy for more than 50 years. Have you ever thought about becoming a politician yourself?
Noam Chomsky: No. First of all, I’d be terrible at it (laughs). I´ll just give you one simple example. My department internally runs very democratically, so there has to be a department administrator of some sort and one member of the faculty has to take that position and it circulates. But the one person that was never allowed to take it is me, because I ruin everything so quickly. So it wouldn’t be worth it. But also I wouldn’t want to be.
Chomsky: Because whatever I can do about the issues that concern me I can do better outside the political realm.
Does it also have something to do with your beliefs about how the political system actually works?
Chomsky: I don’t criticize people who are inside the political system. But I think I can do more elsewhere. Usually, the system responds to popular activism. So, take New Deal legislation. It was implemented because the president in office, Roosevelt, was more or less sympathetic. But also because there was at that time a large array of popular movements which were pressing for responses to the crisis of the Great Depression. Same in the 1960s, Lyndon B. Johnson’s reforms were again the reaction to large scale popular mobilization.