Of those who are willing to read something I sent in - not
the delicate flowers who can't stand to see my name - I expect most
will welcome this item.
From: Robert Rodvik <[log in to unmask]>
Chomsky on Progressive Strategy
by Wolfgang Brauner
Published on Friday, June 29, 2007
Noam Chomsky is one of the key figures on the American
and global left. He is said to be one of the most
widely quoted intellectuals in the world. In 2005,
readers of AlterNet voted him MVP (Most Valuable
Progressive). And he remains very close to many
For all these reasons, we were very excited when we
finally had the opportunity in late May to interview
Chomsky for 25 minutes about his thinking on
progressive grand strategy for building political power
on the American left. More specifically, and in keeping
with the main interest of our Progressive Strategy
Studies Project, we asked him whether he finds it
useful to think about how to build power in strategic
Glancing at the list of individuals and organizations
that we included in our first report, "Finding
Strategy: A Survey of Contemporary Contributions to
Progressive Strategy," he noted that there was more
"extensive and far-reaching" thinking on progressive
strategy than what was reflected in our report.
Throughout the interview, he mainly referred to the
work of Gar Alperovitz, Michael Albert and Robin
Hahnel, and Joel Rogers (the latter is included in our
report)[One should add Ed Herman and David Peterson],
on how to democratize the economy and the
workplace through worker self-management, cooperatives,
etc. In particular, he referred to Alperovitz' latest
book, America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming our Wealth,
Our Liberty, and Our Democracy (2004), and a number of
books by Michael Albert and Robin Hahnel on
participatory economics and broader sociopolitical
issues. Chomsky considers their work to be very
important, particularly for activists.
He started out by emphasizing that the US is "a one-party
state with two wings, Democrat and Republican,"
and claimed that both were "way to the right of the
majority of Americans" on many crucial issues.
According to Chomsky, social scientists like C. Wright
Mills, Thomas Ferguson, and Bill Domhoff (who also is
included in our report) are pretty much right:
Corporations dominate the power structure and hence US
politics. In the US this is even more so the case than
in other countries because of the much more brutal
suppression of labor. Quoting Dewey, Chomsky noted that
in the absence of economic democracy, "politics is the
shadow cast on society by big business."
Since the state, having become so thoroughly co-opted
by corporate interests, is part of the problem, it is
difficult to significantly change it from within
through elections or public policy reforms. While
short-term, pragmatic change remains possible and
desirable, systemic change would require a
transformation of power relations within society
through a democratization of economic decision-making.
Criticizing the recent health care reform in
Massachusetts as overly complicated precisely because
it has to respond to too many corporate interests,
Chomsky noted that, even though a large majority of the
population favors straightforward changes, the US can't
even achieve a real health care reform. While pragmatic
change is better than nothing, it pales in comparison
to the kind of change a country like Bolivia has been
able to achieve, "something the US and other Western
societies can only dream of."
Serious progress towards a truly functioning democracy
requires democratizing the economy. Traditionally,
labor has been the main agent of change, but today it
is, as Chomsky put it, "smashed," and struggles to
survive. Who can fill the huge gap that labor has left
behind? Chomsky admits that other actors, such as
churches and universities, are weak, if not marginal,
though there has been impressive growth of popular
movements, many of them quite new and promising. They
offer considerable promise and opportunity for those
willing to keep working hard at "building the cells of
a future society."
Wolfgang Brauner is the Project Manager and Principal
Researcher of the Progressive Strategy Studies Project
at the Commonwealth Institute in Cambridge, Mass.
You can reach him at [log in to unmask]
The report, "Finding Strategy: A Survey of Contemporary
Contributions to Progressive
Strategy," can be found here:
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Robert S. Rodvik
"Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was
forgotten, the lie became the truth."
George Orwell - 1984