Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Chomsky's anarchism skin-deep

With great relief I finished At War With Asia, which can be summarized as page after page of anti-Americanism. In his last chapter Chomsky sympathetically reviews Bertrand Russell’s support for having America hauled before the International war Crimes Tribunal of 1967. On page 307 Chomsky has his chance to demonstrate his non-aligned anarchism by comparing the crimes of the U.S. to those of the Soviet Union. This would demonstrate that what he told Peck 15 years later was accurate and that he opposed “State Communism” as much as he opposed “State Capitalism.” But here is what he wrote:

“. . . It would be . . . difficult to argue that American policy is not comparable to that of fascist Japan, or of Germany prior to the ‘final solution.’ There may be those who are prepared to tolerate any policy less ghastly than crematoria and death camps and to reserve their horror for the particular forms of criminal insanity perfected by the Nazi technicians. Others will not lightly disregard comparisons which, though harsh, may well be accurate.

“Nazi Germany was sui generis, of that there is no doubt. But we should have the courage and honesty to face the question whether the principles applied to Nazi Germany and fascist Japan do not, as well, apply to the American war in Vietnam. . . .”

This was the time, if what Chomsky told Peck was correct, to group the Soviet Union in there. To compare what the U.S. did in Vietnam not just with Nazi German and Fascist Japan but Soviet Russia, but he doesn’t do it. He leaves Russia out.

Interestingly, at the very end of his book, in the very last paragraph, he writes, “The [War Crimes] Tribunal, or another like it, should turn to Czechoslovakia, to Greece, to a dozen other countries that are suffering in the grip of the imperialist powers or the local forces that they support and maintain.”

Czechoslovakia had its “Prague Spring”; then “On the night of August 20–21, 1968, Eastern Bloc armies from four Warsaw Pact countries — the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary—invaded the ČSSR." [Wikipedia] So it was undoubtedly to this suppression (my word not Chomsky’s) that he was referring, but in view of the devastating effect this had on Communist efforts in France and elsewhere, this is extremely mild. No desire to bring the USSR before any war crimes tribunal either for the atrocities committed during the Stalinist period of any subsequent atrocities. Czechoslovakia was in the news while Chomsky was writing At War With Asia; so he makes a very, very, slight acknowledgment to the idea that some nation unnamed may have done something a slightly bit naughty there.

If it weren’t for the fact that so many Leftists love Chomsky I would write him off as a crackpot. . . let me rephrase that. I do write Chomsky off as a crackpot, but I continue to wonder why so many Leftists love him. However, I’ve wondered about what motivates Leftists for a long time and doubt that spending too terribly much time with Chomsky is going to satisfy my curiosity.


Anonymous said...

I think the IWCT concerninge the US:s war in Vietnam was a good thing - what do you think?


Lawrence Helm said...


I responded to your comment in a separate note: