Noam Chomsky on the capitalist crisis


Workers Solidarity reporters met America’s most famous dissident for breakfast during his recent visit, here is a transcript of some of what we talked about.

What do you think the anarchist response to the recession should be? 

The answer should be, these are the policies we’ve followed for 30 years … we’ve financialised the economy and destroyed productive systems, because it enriches rich people and strengthens finance capital … These are the policies of Clinton, Carter, and Obama, and the US Republicans have [only] carried that a little farther. In fact the guys who are Obama’s financial advisers, those guys ought to be in jail … they’re the guys who created the crisis.

What should anarchists and workers do to counter anti-union culture?

Never any magic key to this, it is education and organisation. You have to have tactics that relate to the level of peoples’ understanding and perception that focus on meaningful goals. There’s just no magic key. We have to fight back.

The decline in workers solidarity has been pretty remarkable over the last 20 years. There was a striking example this year when Obama wanted to show his support for working people. He undermined everything he promised to do, what he did was, he went to a factory in Illinois, the factory he chose was Caterpillar. So, there were protests from peace church groups … there were no protests from the labour movement.

15 years ago in the early 90’s when Obama was in Chicago, he has got to know about it, it was all over Chicago, the Chicago Tribune, a right-wing paper that happens to carry labour issues very well, Caterpillar in the early 90’s was the first manufacturing corporation in generations to call in scabs to break up the strike..

Caterpillar is basically following the model of Reagan, but they were first industrial corporation to do it, and that’s were Obama goes to give his solidarity speech and nobody objected. 

When you compare that to Argentina …

The crisis really destroyed the economy, like it was down to zero, and then you had spontaneous revolts. Now there are little bits of that in the United States, but business thinks fast. For example did you follow the Republic Windows and Doors dispute in Chicago, well they were attempting a number of sit-ins and they were planning to take over the plant.

At that point the multinational, the banks, whoever owns the things, decided, instead of closing it down, to sell it off, and a lot of the workers got their jobs back, and they didn’t take the next step, which was imminent. A lot of that stuff is just below the surface.

Auto-plants are being shut down, and it quite honestly, kinda surreal. The industrial plants are being shut down, the Obama administration has got officials off in Spain and France using Federal stimulus money to purchase high speed rail technology, which could be built in the plants [except] for the banks and so on. 

So, [they’re] using taxpayer money to buy it from Spain. If the communities and the workforce had reached the right level of consciousness, they would just take over the plant, reconstruct it, and start producing high-speed rail transport.

… Which is what they did in Argentina

But they did it in Argentina after everything had collapsed, so nothing is functional anymore. There is still an inspiration you can take, but you don’t want to wait until everything has fallen apart

Who does the media work for?
How many labour reporters are there, and how many business reporters working for the Irish Times? They’re doing their jobs; the media are part of the state corporate system … what should be praised is that occasionally they break out [of it]. But, most of the time they’re doing their job, and … journalists and editors and so on, they believe in what they’re doing, just like Soviet party hacks believed in it.

It’s easier for the Irish media to be critically of US policies
It’s always easier to criticise someone. That’s why in England and Ireland too, the Balkans are worse than Israel and the United States, because they are criticising someone else’s crimes. Media critique is a good thing to do, I’ve spent a lot of time on it too, but you can’t act as if you’re surprised,

I mean ... it’s like objecting to General Motors because they try to make profits. But if they ever break out of the pattern briefly, fine, support it, and when you do a media critique, it’s not to try and change the media, it’s to get people to understand the difference between the world and what passes through the filters, so you’re talking to the population, not the editors.