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Forum Post: Noam Chomsky on Reform v. Revolution

Posted 2 years ago on Jan. 18, 2012, 4:37 a.m. EST by ProfitOverPeople (2) from Châtillon, IdF
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See the interview where Chomsky discusses this below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Se-Nq_rBQHk

1.Do you agree with Chomsky that there "are no limits to what reform can accomplish" or do you believe that the only way to change the system is to eliminate the powerful forces at play, which would mean revolution. Are even anywhere near of making revolution? Removing these forces from the game would require a change in the institutions that shape our government. OR - do you think that continual reform would eventually be called a revolution because it would, over time, change the institutional structure of government.

  1. What do you think about the way Chomsky answers the question about human nature?

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[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 2 years ago

My respect for Dr. Chomsky has grown over time (I just started reading a book of his, which mostly discusses his work in linguistics, but spends a little time tying it to his political views). What can be accomplished through revolution? I mean, revolution is a big word, which could have various meanings. I'm pretty sure no one is suggesting a French Style revolution, but rather a peaceful revolution (through protest and disruption).

Will this sort of movement result in completely overturning our system? It depends what you mean by "our system" ... if you're speaking of political corruption, wealth disparity, trade reform, etc., then yes (but I'm not sure how this is distinct from reform). If you're also talking about more applications of direct democracy and increased participation in our political system, again, this could probably be accomplished through reform.

Even a more democratic economic system could be accomplished without trying to abruptly bring down the system, and I think this is what OWS has in mind (or at least a great number of its participants). This could be loosely defined as revolution I suppose, or it's at least not reform in the typical sense. However, it is a gradual--ground up sort of endeavor. I don't see confiscation and redistribution of property in the Leninist sense happening anytime in the foreseeable future, but this isn't really necessary. A slow displacement and movement towards a more democratic economic and political system seems more feasible, but it requires long term sustained effort (on many fronts).

So I think the effort is or should be two pronged. Deal with the acute problems we face. OWS itself is the engine of inspiration, keeping awareness focused on the important issues, while more direct reform efforts will perhaps come from more established liberal organizations (who are armed with lawyers and other necessary professionals). OWS is also an education movement of sorts, which can inspire people to do things like start a democratic enterprise (and direct them to organizations who can provide technical assistance). Is this reform or revolution? I'm not sure I care what we call it, as long as we do it.

[-] 1 points by occupypuppies (71) 2 years ago

"reform and revolution are not incompatible" a friend sent me this message.

[-] 1 points by occupypuppies (71) 2 years ago
  1. No, fuck him, fuck reform, WE WANT REVOLUTION NOW. He says near the end of that spiel, he says "these policies undermine the social-democratic, welfare states that have been developed, undermine the power of labor, create an unegalitarian structure and put greater power in the hands of the corporate sector and the wealthy which is a failure of design." So he's saying our society is set up incredibly wrong, but we should reform it. I know I'm not the only one who has thought since the beginning that we should start a new way of doing things and that's why this is so exciting. But I guess eventually the movement will break up into different groups. I don't know. I don't know anything. My utopian vision is and has always been of a revolution, a completely new organization of people and power, horizontalism, complete mutiny and uprising. Because that's all I know and understand and I know that there are many out there like me, uneducated on politics but with passion and empathy and certain anti-authoritarian values. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I want the government gone. I don't care. It's not anything I want to reform. It's all men, it's a patriarchal structure, it's corrupt, it's gotten away with way too much and it has dug us into a hole and is obsessed with war.

Anarchy is love. Small groups of self-governed, like-minded people of people. I am energized by my completely ideological and unrealistic goals, but they are the only thing that keep me fighting, not the idea of reform!

[-] 3 points by epa1nter (4650) from Rutherford, NJ 2 years ago

Whatever keeps you going, Occupypuppies. If you are a part of OWS, bless you! (Really! I'm grateful for people like you.) But revolution won't happen, reform can. No change can happen without a critical mass of support, and revolution is simply not supported in sufficient numbers, and likely won't be in your lifetime. That's what Chomsky understands. And keep in mind that one man's utopia is another man's hell. So dream big, but work real. Head in the clouds, but feet on the ground.

[-] 1 points by occupypuppies (71) 2 years ago

No one knows what's going to happen. The government is illegitimate. If they didn't have police paramilitaries with tanks, they would definitely not even be here.

[-] 1 points by ProfitOverPeople (2) from Châtillon, IdF 2 years ago

Yes, I think he is being very rationalistic. I understand that. But will the powerful forces at play even let us do real, substantial reform ?

[-] 1 points by epa1nter (4650) from Rutherford, NJ 2 years ago

The forces of the 1% are indeed very powerfully aligned against change of any sort. The various strands of the system have become so tightly interwoven that even reform will take enormous, sustained, and focussed effort, probably over a very long time.

But I refuse to to believe that it is impossible. Change has been made to happen before: the voting rights and civil rights acts are things that some people bet their very lives against. In the span of a single lifetime, I witnessed Blacks not being allowed to drink at public water fountains, and now we have a Black president. Whatever one happens to think of him, the very fact of his election speaks to a society that has been transformed fundamentally. And i it can change so fundamentally in one area, it can in others. It doesn't take revolution, it takes reformation. And if enough reforms happen, as Chomsky said, it will be a de facto revolution, whether it is called that or not.

[-] 1 points by ProfitOverPeople (2) from Châtillon, IdF 2 years ago

Direct participation in government or stick to representative?