The REDSTAR2000 Papers

Listen to the worm of doubt, for it speaks truth. - Leftist Discussion

Clueless Chomsky May 10, 2004 by RedStar2000

One of the "icons" of the American "left", Professor Noam Chomsky, has recently endorsed Democrat John Kerry in the U.S. presidential election this fall.

Icons always "let you down" in the end.


Noam Chomsky's detailed critiques of America's imperial adventures are a "staple" resource" among lefties all over the world.

His understanding of bourgeois electoral politics, however, suggest someone who is utterly clueless.

Here's what he said...


In a very powerful state, small differences may translate into very substantial effects on the victims, at home and abroad. It is no favor to those who are suffering, and may face much worse ahead, to overlook these facts. Keeping the Bush circle out means holding one's nose and voting for some Democrat, but that's not the end of the story. The basic culture and institutions of a democratic society have to be constructed, in part reconstructed, and defeat of an extremely dangerous clique in the presidential race is only one very small component of that.

Note in particular the appeal to "reduce human suffering" by voting for the billionaire Kerry, who has already promised to "stay the course in Iraq" -- keep the imperial adventure going.

That seems to be at the root of all reformist political opinions. The job of the "left" is to "reduce human suffering" matter what it "takes".

One of the things it takes is gross historical ignorance.

Chomsky is old enough (like me) to remember when Lyndon Johnson (Democrat) was the "peace candidate" and Barry Goldwater (Republican) was the "warmonger". The human suffering of the Vietnamese that followed Johnson's election was on an enormous scale! More than a million Vietnamese were murdered by U.S. imperialism.

Unlike me, Chomsky is apparently succumbing to reformist senility.

Here it is in a form so simple that even a world-class linguist should be able to understand it.

1. Bush is a bastard!

2. Kerry is also a bastard!

3. They are all bastards!

All of them will "increase human suffering", period.
First posted at Che-Lives on May 5, 2004

Here is my response to Chomsky.


We have several choices to make. The first is whether we want to pay attention to the real world, or prefer to keep to abstract discussions suitable to some seminar.

Or some message board...!

One of the things I've noticed is that when otherwise well-meaning people want to advocate a really shitty position, they preface it with an appeal to "paying attention to the real world".

Well, the real world is it your wish to "accept" that?

In the "real world" we live in a period of reaction. The "real choices" are all reactionary.

In my opinion, we should be "unrealistic"...and even, on occasion, "utopian".

We should advocate what we really want...even if that makes us "ineffective", "dreamers", "not real players", blah, blah, blah.

When the first abolitionists began their agitation (in the early 1830s), "serious politicians" thought they were insignificant nutball dreamers at best and, at worst, a dangerous subversive threat to "the American way".

Less than four decades later, the Confederacy was a smoldering ruin and private property in slaves was history.

I think the lesson is quite clear: we should try, as best we can, for what we want...and then we'll see how we do.

If we support what we don't want...guess what we'll get?


Then there is another choice: electing Bush or seeking to prevent his election.

In "real world" terms, it's unlikely that the "left" (broadly defined) has the sheer numbers to do either. If the "left" portion of the American electorate is somewhere between 5 and 10 percent of the total, it would likely have to vote unanimously for Kerry or for Bush to affect the outcome.

In addition, the "left" electorate is concentrated in only three states -- New York, Massachusetts, and California...Bush can lose all three of those states and still win.


Since US elections are pretty much bought, [Bush] will therefore win, unless there is a very powerful popular mobilization to overcome these enormous and usually decisive advantages.

But why should there be "a very powerful popular mobilization" on behalf of a Bush clone -- Kerry?

In recent decades, up to half or more of all voting-age Americans have greeted our ceremonial "elections" with a big yawn...why should that change?


It's a matter of judgment, of course, but mine is that those who favor electing Bush are making a very serious error.

Well, I haven't heard of any lefties who argue that we should "actively support" Bush...but perhaps my circle of acquaintances is too narrow.

Or perhaps this is meant as a sort of back-handed criticism of those who propose to ignore the "elections" altogether; i.e., if you don't "actively support Kerry" "then" you must be "supporting" Bush.

Nonsense, of course.


The people around him are likely to cause very serious, perhaps irreparable, harm if given another mandate.

I think the "irreparable harm" was accomplished long ago...the Taft-Hartley Labor Relations Act (1949?) -- which barred freely elected communists from holding office in trade unions -- was the end of "civil liberties" for the left in the United States.

Since then, we have been "permanent outsiders" here, tolerated when we are weak and freely (and violently) persecuted whenever we show signs of strength.

To involve ourselves in bourgeois electoral politics is to pretend that we of the left are "real citizens" just like conservative Democrats and reactionary Republicans.

But, in their eyes, we are not part of the "Volk Community"...not real Americans at all.

Their eyes see more clearly than those of many lefties...we aren't part of their community. The sooner we realize that, the better we'll do.


Activist movements, if at all serious, pay virtually no attention to which faction of the business party is in office, but continue with their daily work, from which elections are a diversion -- which we cannot ignore, any more than we can ignore the sun rising; they exist.

An astounding sentence! On the one hand, Chomsky admits that bourgeois elections are a diversion from our real work...a true statement. And then, in the same sentence, asserts that we "cannot ignore them" because "they exist".

The Superbowl Half-Time Spectacular also "exists". Shall we take part?


Those who prefer to ignore the real world are also undermining any hope of reaching any popular constituency.

No one will listen to us unless we "take seriously" that which around half of all Americans already ignore.

It seems to me that our potential "popular constituency" is...rather large.

We are unlikely to "reach" them with a message of the "importance" of what they have already recognized as a pile of shit.


Few are likely to pay attention to someone who approaches them by saying, loud and clear: "I don't care whether you have a slightly better chance to receive health care or to support your elderly mother; or whether there will be a physical environment in which your children might have a decent life; or a world in which children may escape destruction as a result of the violence that is inspired by the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz-Cheney-etc. crowd, which could become extreme; and on, and on. Repeat: "slightly better."

Repeat it a lot! If you repeat it often enough, some fool might believe it.

What ruling class politicians will actually do once elected is impossible to predict in detail...but it will always be bad unless there is massive discontent and even rebellion in the streets.

Telling people to vote for Kerry on the grounds that things might be "slightly better" for them in terms of social services is like constructing mathematical systems to "win the lottery". Even if possible, the real world result won't be very helpful...your ticket will still be a highly probable loser.

Note also the appeal to support Kerry on the grounds that if we don't, that means "we don't really care about people".

It's politics as charity -- a core message of reformism and also quite wide-spread among less sophisticated Leninists.

The message is that we of the left are "humanitarians" fact, we're "more humanitarian" than even Jimmy Carter or Mother Teresa. We are just here to "help people". We are "so good" and "so virtuous", right?

Wrong! We who are serious are here to abolish wage-slavery!

That is the human suffering that we wish to eliminate from the face of the planet. That is what will get rid of capitalists and their violent state machinery. That is what will make "all the goodies" freely available to all on the basis of need.

I have no quarrel with individuals who wish to personally devote their time and energies to the immediate alleviation of human suffering...though I do point out that they are unlikely to have any measurable impact on the totality of suffering. There's simply too much of it.

But I have a deep and profound quarrel with those who place "relieving human suffering" at the heart of our project; it would mean that we would never get around to attacking the root cause of human suffering...class society!

In this "election" and all of those to come, I think we should tell people the plain truth.

No one you vote for is going to change your life for the better!

If you want a better life, you'll have to fight for it.


So those who prefer to ignore the real world are also saying: "please ignore me." And they will achieve that result.

Oh dear. No cover of Time? No invitation to write an op-ed piece for the Washington Post? No face-time on the dummyvision?

What this is, really, is an appeal to egotism...a powerful appeal in class society. Many lefties have a pretty deep-rooted fear of being "ineffective" or, to put it another way, "unnoticed", "ignored", "insignificant", etc. By the standards of class society, your "status" is no better than that of some poor wino asleep on the sidewalk.

How "intolerable"!

I propose a different alternative: that we deliver our real message as best we can...and let time do its work.

If we do our real job and do it well, the time will come when the bourgeois media will come calling and we will be "significant" and no longer "ignored".

And when they do show, by the way, my advice is that we should tell them to fuck off! They are a bunch of professional liars, are they not?
First posted at Che-Lives on May 5, 2004


Agitate & wait? This is the type of infantile ultra-left behavior that must be avoided.

Infantile ultra-left behavior?

Well, the "ultra-left" part is true enough, I suppose.

But you left out the explanation of how participation in bourgeois ceremonial "elections" demonstrates your "maturity".

A song lyric is not an explanation.


Chomsky isn't a sellout just because he wants Bush out now. You don't get downgraded to social democrat just because you vote in a bourgeois election.

I did not speculate on Professor Chomsky's compensation. I simply argued that he was clueless -- like yourself -- with regard to bourgeois electoral politics.

Also, it's not simply a matter of "voting"...Chomsky clearly stated that he wants "a very powerful popular mobilization" on behalf of Kerry and the implication is that he expects us to do that.


Heed the words of Mr. Rogers. You can get your "real message" across and wait, or you could get the message across and then do everything else in your power to defend the working class.

Probably the first time in history that "Comrade Rogers" has been promoted to the level of "defender of the working class" and theoretical adviser to Che-Lives.

Tell me about who is "infantile" again...I forgot.
First posted at Che-Lives on May 6, 2004


It is not participating in the "bourgeois ceremony" that makes one mature. It is simply making the right choice when someone presents an opportunity before you.

But isn't that what is in dispute? Is it an opportunity or just an "opportunity" -- like the "choice" between Windows 2000© and Windows XP©.


Here we have the opportunity to oust Bush, with a lesser evil.

That assumes that (1) Kerry really is the "lesser evil" and (2) that there's anything to be gained by "choosing evil".

I don't think either of those assumptions is worth a puddle of warm spit.


As Chomsky already told you, the choice is between electing Bush, preventing his election, or endlessly pontificating about the matter on a forum.

Of those options, I choose pontification and gladly. At least I will not be lying to people about "lesser evils".


But the comparison we are to make is between Kerry and Bush. And in that comparison, believe it or not, you will see "small differences" that "may translate into very substantial effects on the victims."

The "butterfly" effect, no doubt.

Sorry, I don't really accept the idea that a butterfly's wings in China can generate a hurricane in the Caribbean.

Nor do I think that Kerry's election will make any measurable difference in social reality.


But what about those in hard-hats and hunched over keyboards who are too busy to pay attention to you? Let them be the "victims"?

They will be "victims" no matter who is in the White House.


Kerry and Bush are not the same.

Yes they are!


Today Kerry's campaign sent me some mail asking for a donation. It contained a letter explaining the details of Kerry's campaign. The letter could have easily been written by someone on Che-Lives complaining about capitalism in general.

That's probably true...and unfortunate. We have many people here who are still far too influenced by bourgeois liberalism.

The real difference is that people here will learn better while Kerry is just another fucking liar.


You don't have to praise Kerry in order to have a very popular mobilization for him. You just need people saying "Vote Kerry even though HE SUCKS."

An inspiring message, all right.


We will replace Bush with Kerry, but we will keep the same intensity of attacks against his policies.

In other words, you will attack the guy you just finished telling people to vote for.

How clever.

And what a way to earn people's respect.
First posted at Che-Lives on May 6, 2004


If you see no difference whatsoever, you are very much a moron.

Kerry supports abortion, evolution being taught in schools, global warming protection, and many other things which Bush does not. He also opposes the tax cuts for the rich Bush supports.

Dear me. Yet another innocent who evidently "thinks" that what bourgeois politicians say has some relationship to what they do!

Read carefully and take notes: bourgeois politicians may say anything they wish; once elected, they may do whatever they please.

There is no requirement that they tell the truth.

In fact, as was noted many decades ago, the functional definition of an "honest (bourgeois) politician" is that he stays bought.

Neither Bush nor Kerry meet even that modest standard.
First posted at Che-Lives on May 7, 2004


Register your solidarity with the people of Iraq by voting Nader for peace!

Well, yeah, if you have an absolutely irresistible urge to vote -- like a junkie who needs a "fix", then by all means crawl to the polls and vote for the left-bourgeois Nader.

He won't win but at least he actually is a "lesser evil".

Better still, of course, would be to recognize that bourgeois elections are a just another form of entertainment...and have nothing to do with real politics at all!

"When will they ever learn...?"
First posted at Che-Lives on May 8, 2004


But you err when you characterize Nader as a petite-bourgeois politician.

No I don't. I'm not talking about his net worth or how he spends his income, I'm talking about his actual ideas and what his practice has been over the decades.

He wants to reform capitalism and make it work more "fairly" and "rationally". That's always been the historical role of the "left" bourgeoisie; Nader would have made a terrific running-mate for Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Of course now he's an anachronism...a kind of living fossil. The ruling class is no longer even verbally interested in "reform" or "fairness"...possibly because they simply can't afford it any longer. The new "mantra" of capitalism is "lean and mean" -- the first word referring to the conditions of the working class and the second word referring to the ruling class.

There aren't going to be any more successful Franklin D. Roosevelt's.
First posted at Che-Lives on May 8, 2004
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