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* Changes and progress very rarely are gifts from above. They come out of struggles from below. Noam Chomsky
In this exclusive interview with Noam Chomsky, renowned linguistic, activist, anarchist and author, we talk about U.S hegemony and its influence in Europe taking into account past & present developments.
This interview was held via video-conference from Munich in November 2015. Given the recent developments on the transatlantic relationship between Europe, Germany and the U.S. as well as the rising nuclear threat between Russia & the U.S., acTVism has reproduced and is republishing this video to provide viewers historical context.
The United States happens to be pretty much at the extreme of keeping to the principle that the corporate system must be pathological, and that the government is allowed to and glad to intervene to uphold that principle. The European system is somewhat different, the British system is somewhat in between, and they all vary.
- Like during the New Deal period in the United States and during the 1960s, the United States veered somewhat towards a social market system. That’s why the Bush administration, who are of extreme reactionary sort, are trying to dismantle the few elements where the social market exists.
- Why are they trying to destroy social security, for example? I mean, there’s no serious economic problem, it’s all fraud. It’s in as good fiscal health as it’s ever been in its history, but it is a system which benefits the general population. It is of no use at all to the wealthy. Like, I get social security when I retire, but I’ve been a professor at MIT for fifty years, so I got a big pension and so on and so forth, I wouldn’t even notice if I didn’t get social security.
- But a very large part of the population, maybe 60% or something like that, actually survive on it. So therefore it’s a system that obviously has to be destroyed. It’s useless for the wealthy, it’s useless for privilege, it contributes nothing to profit. It has other bad features, like it’s based on the principle that you should care about somebody else, like you should care whether a disabled widow has food to eat. And that’s hopelessly immoral by the moral principles of power and privilege, so you’ve got to knock that idea out of people’s heads, and therefore you want to get rid of the system.
And in fact a lot of what’s called – ridiculously – “conservatism” is just pathological fanaticism, based on maximization of power and wealth in accord with principles that do have a legal basis.
But to get back to your original question, these are just choices. I mean, there are choices as to whether corporations should even exist, or why they’re even legitimate. They’re just tyrannies. Why should tyrannies exist? They are not supposed to exist in the political realm, there’s no reason why they should exist in the economic realm. But if they do, they could be imagined in all sorts of different ways, and there’s constant class struggle and pressures that lead to one or another outcome.
- I mean the European system developed out of its complex historical background. I’m sure you know the original welfare states were basically Germany in the Bismarckian period – not because Bismarck was a big radical.
- And in fact to an extent, the European systems reflect the fact that they grew out of a feudal system. A feudal system is non-capitalist. In a feudal system everyone has a place – maybe a rotten place, but some place. So the serf has some place in the feudal system, they have some rights within that place in the system.
- In a capitalist system, you don’t have any rights. And in fact when modern capitalism developed in the early 19th century – this is post-Adam Smith or anything like that, but Ricardo and Malthus and so on – their principle was pretty simple: you don’t have any rights. The only rights a person has are what they can gain in the labor market.
- And beyond that, you’ve no right to live, you’ve no right to survive. If you can’t make out on the labor market, go somewhere else. And in fact they could go somewhere else, they could come here and exterminate the population and settle here. But in Europe, you couldn’t do that, so some remnants of the whole feudal system and conservative structures and so on did lead to – after all, Europe had huge labor movements, the German social democratic party grew out of very powerful movements, and they just forced the development of what became social market systems.
After World War II, it was a very complex situation; the Second World War had a highly radicalizing effect, and the anti-fascist resistance had plenty of prestige. It was pretty radical; it was calling for quite radical democracy – it’s sometimes called communism, but it often had nothing to do with that. It’s just very radical democracy, worker’s control and so on and so forth, and it was so wide-spread, some kind of settlement had to be made with it.
If anyone were to write an honest history of post-WWII period, the first chapter would be devoted to how the British and American forces liberating Europe, one of the first things they did was to destroy the resistance, and to undermine the labor movement, and to try to beat back the efforts to create radical democratic programs. It varied in different countries but happened everywhere. Like in Italy, it started happening in 1943, since they moved in. By the time, the British and American forces reached Northern Italy, it had been pretty well liberated by the resistance, they had driven out the Germans mostly, and they had established their own institutions: worker-managed industrial systems, cooperatives, and so on. The British and Americans were totally appalled, they had to dismantle the whole thing and restore the rights of owners, meaning restore the traditional fascist system. An in fact, in the case of Italy, it’s particularly interesting. It continued at least into the 1970s. Italy was the main center of CIA subversion, well into the 1970s, but it happened everywhere else, too. In Greece, there was a war to destroy the resistance; they killed about a 150,000 people, and ended up restoring something like the traditional fascist structure.
Not long after the United States strongly supported the first restoration of actual fascism in Europe, and continued to support it, it was overthrown by the Greeks. And elsewhere it took different forms. In England and the United States, there were similar things happening. The population was also radicalized, and there had to be some adaptation to them, so you get the welfare state periods. But this is just the constant flux of struggle and conflict internal to hierarchic societies. There’s no right answer to it.
Noam Chomsky is a world-renowned political dissident, anarchist, linguist, author and institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he’s taught for more than half a century. Chomsky has written more than 100 books, his latest being “Because We Say So“. Chomsky has been a highly influential academic figure throughout his career, and was cited within the Arts and Humanities Citation Index (A&HCI) more often than any other living scholar from 1980 to 1992.
His work has influenced a wide range of domains, including artificial intelligence, cognitive science, computer science, logic, mathematics, music theory and analysis, psychology and immunology. Chomsky also developed the propaganda model of media criticism with Edward S. Herman which they presented in their book “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media“. Chomsky remains a leading critic of U.S. foreign policy, neoliberal capitalism, and mainstream news media. To watch our complete video series with Noam Chomsky
YOUTUBE: If you want to know the real truth about WWII and not the “US is the greatest country in the world who saved the universe” propaganda, then see this film
The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: acTVism Munich