On Globalization

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On Globalization

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On Globalization

  1. 1. ZNet Update & Chomsky Commentary, Wed, 30 Mar 2005 21:21:41 -0500 they are not international. That's the aspiration, and that's how the several Internationals were formed, true On Globalization, Iraq, and Middle East Studies internationals. In fact the World Social Forum is probably Noam Chomsky interviewed by Danilo Mandic the first time there has been any development grassroots- up that merits the term "international." There is just no Danilo Mandic: Could I please get your views on the way for these movements to be anti-globalization. They recent World Social Forum that was held a few months are perfect instances of globalization. The term has come ago in Porto Allegre, Brazil. Over 150,000 people from to be used in recent years as a kind of a technical term 135 countries participated, an unprecedented number; which doesn't refer to globalization, but refers to a very and they covered a wide range of issues including specific form of international economic integration ... economic equality, labor rights, war, and global corporate power. What has the social justice movement done since DM: Right. the first forum five years ago? NC: ... namely based on the priority given to investor Noam Chomsky: The forum itself is a place for people to rights, not rights of people. So rights of investors, lenders, get together and discuss and plan many activities from all corporations, banks, financial institutions and so on, within over. For example, if you take the first (the year 2000) a general neo-liberal framework, roughly the so-called Social Forum - which was more western hemisphere Washington Consensus. That's a particular doctrinal oriented then the other ones which have been much position, which has come to be called "globalization" broader - one of the things that came from it was a because the people who have that position have control of massive popular program to try to block or alter the so- concentrated wealth and power, so they can therefore called Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, which is impose their terms on much discourse. It's kind of like not free and is not about trade and was certainly not an saying that in the old Soviet Union "democracy" meant agreement, at least if people matter. And that lead to local the so-called People's Democracies. You know, activities in many countries and to very large-scale Czechoslovakia and Hungary. They had the power to use demonstrations at the hemispheric summit in Quebec in the term "democracy" for those gross distortions of April 2001, which were sufficient to derail the efforts to ram democracy. And the people who pretty much own the through a NAFTA-style program in the hemisphere. Since world have enough power to distort the term then it has just continued. By now there are regional social "globalization" to their highly specific and extremely forums all over the world. There are local social forums. doctrinary position. But the people who are opposed to For example, there is a Boston Social Forum, which is just their version of globalization aren't opposed to in the Boston area, that is one of many (I don't know how globalization. They're just calling for other modes of many) local forums that have spun off of the central one. globalization that prioritize rights of people, future Now they are concerned with issues that are of concern - generations, the environment, etc., more than the rights of in the United States, it's always going to be of global those with concentrated wealth and power. The same is concern too because of U.S. power - but also just plain true of all of the agreements (so-called, not really and simple, you know, serious jobs for justice programs agreements, but treaties that are instituted within that locally, anti-corporate programs locally, and so on. Now framework). Take say NAFTA - striking example - the those happen in the regions where people are involved. North American Free Trade Agreement. I mean, the one The concerns of people who are there, they integrate with phrase in that that is correct is "North American." It does the international, regional (larger regional), international indeed have to do with three North American countries, meetings and, as you say, at the World Social Forum counting Mexico as North American. Now beyond that, itself. There's a very wide range of discussion - it didn't every statement is false. It's not about free trade. It's have to be at the last one but earlier ones - typically quite highly protectionist. It's certainly not, in many respects, an serious discussion by activists and engaged people from agreement. The population in Canada and the United many different walks of life and parts of the world, on States, the majority is opposed and probably in Mexico issues of general concern. Out of them come some too, but we don't have good polls from Mexico. There were general programmatic ideas, some ideas about actions, alternative proposals. This was the executive version of which are then implemented by people in their own the North American Free Trade Agreement, which did manner - you can't have a global program without local have a very powerful elite consensus behind it. So the adaptation. corporate world was in favor; the media were virtually 100% in favor. Now the population was mostly opposed, DM: A lot of eminent scholars are fond of using the phrase and there were alternatives proposed. So for example "anti-globalization movement." What do you think of that there's a treaty in the United States which requires that label? labor be consulted seriously on any international economic agreement that affects workers, which this NC: As I've said repeatedly, including at the World Social obviously did. Well, the labor movement wasn't even forum, it's just plain propaganda. I mean "globalization" notified. I mean there is a Labor Advisory Council which is used in a neutral sense just means "international responsible for such things. I think they were notified, integration." The World Social Forum in fact is a perfect given the text about 24 hours before it was signed. It was example of globalization at the level of people. I mean Clinton that really, really loathed democracy and freedom. you have people from India, Africa, Brazil, Latin America, That didn't get reported. Nevertheless, the Labor Advisory North America, Europe, just about everywhere, from every Council even with that limited time was able to put forward walk of life, who have somewhat common concerns and a proposal, a very constructive detailed proposal, for a interests. That's globalization. In fact, globalization itself North American Free Trade Agreement, but one that was has been the guiding vision of the workers' movements on redesigned so instead of being directed to low wage, low the left since their origins in the 19th century. That's why growth, high profit futures (as they correctly described this every labor union is called an International even though one) it would be directed towards a high growth, high
  2. 2. wage, more egalitarian form of international integration. population simply would not accept the rules that the And that was presented. Actually it turns out that their occupation authorities were imposing, and finally proposal was very similar to that proposed about the same Washington was compelled, very reluctantly, to accept time by Congress's own Research Bureau and Office of elections. It tried in every way to undermine them. So for Technology Assessment, which also said they were example, the independent press was kicked out of the opposed to this version of the agreement, but they country. Al Jazeera, which is by far the most popular suggested a different version, very much with a similar media in the country and most of the region, was simply critique to that of the labor movement and similar kicked out on spurious grounds. The U.S. candidate (the constructive proposals. None of that was ever reported. I U.S. had a candidate: Iyad Allawi) was given every mean to this day, nobody knows about it, more than ten possible advantage: full state resources, access to any years later. It's just suppressed. I mean there was television, and so on and so forth. He got creamed. Every discussion of the labor movement. They were denounced. party, including even the U.S. government's party, was Anthony Lewis of the New York Times, who is about as far compelled to put in a plank, just by pressure of popular to the left as you can get, condemned the labor movement opinion, calling for U.S. withdrawal, withdrawal of the for its brutal, harsh, nationalistic tactics, on and on. He occupying forces. Even U.S.-run polls show that that's a had a clue what the labor movement position was, and it very strong majority opinion, among Shiites as well. They was anything but. But it simply could not be reported. As were forced to put it in. Even thought they didn't want it, far as I am aware, to this day it hasn't been reported. Well they just had to. The U.S. announced at once after the it's kind of like globalization. There was no opposition to a election - in Britain, Blair, Bush and Rice announced at North American economic agreement, but there was once - that there would be no timetable for withdrawal. It opposition to this one, and there were constructive doesn't matter what the Iraqis want. The U.S. announced alternatives but they never entered political discussion and right away that the troops would stay there at least until debate. I mean the media did enjoy Ross Perot because 2007, in fact as far as building military bases to try to keep they could make fun of him, you know, talk about sucking them there indefinitely. Not to occupy the country, sounds, make jokes, and so on and so forth. But the because for that they would much rather have Iraqi serious proposals that came straight out of popular mercenary forces. Just like Britain ran India or Russia ran movements, like the labor movement and even Eastern Europe, not with their own forces. But they have Congress's Research Bureau, they were off the agenda. to be there to make sure things stay under control. Then And it's pretty much the same with regard to globalization, right now there's a struggle going on, as to whether the which is sort of like the use of the word democracy in the United States will be able to subvert the elections that it old Soviet Union. For other purposes, but similar reluctantly accepted. I think you'll have a hard time finding mechanisms. a serious Middle Eastern scholar or anyone who pays attention who won't agree with this. In fact it's quite DM: On that note, let me turn briefly to Iraq if you don't obvious just from reading the serious press reports on this. mind. Of course once the United States was forced into accepting elections, the government and the media NC: Sure. immediately pronounced that it was a great achievement of the United States. But it was quite the opposite. But it's DM: Democracy is another term that mainstream eminent a good thing that it happened, in opposition to the U.S. In scholars are found of using when it comes to Iraq. The fact it's a major triumph of nonviolent resistance, and it by-now-famous Lancet report counted about 100,000 should be understood as such. And maybe it's a basis - excess deaths in Iraq as a result of the Anglo-American now comes the question of whether Iraqis can succeed, in invasion. The Iraqi oil industry is becoming increasingly reaching, moving towards a stage where they will actually privatized into Western corporate hands, and the Iraqi be able to run their own country, which the U.S. is elections are being hailed as proof of the success of the certainly going to oppose. There is no doubt of this. The American endeavor. What do the elections mean for Iraq? last thing the United States wants is a democratic, sovereign Iraq. To see why, it's enough to think for five NC: Actually I agree that the elections were a success ... minutes about what its policies are likely to be. Let's of opposition to the United States. What is being suppose there were a democratic Iraq with some degree suppressed - except for Middle East specialists, who know of sovereignty. The first thing it'll do is try to improve about it perfectly well and are writing about it, or people relations with Iran. It's not that they love Iran particularly, who in fact have read the newspapers in the last couple of but they'd rather have friendly relations with the years - what's being suppressed is the fact that the United neighboring Shiite state than hostile relations. So, they'll States had to be brought kicking and screaming into move towards improving relations with Iran, especially accepting elections. The U.S. was strongly opposed to because it has a Shiite majority. If they're democratic them. I wrote about the early stages of this in a book that enough, so the Shiite majority has a significant part. The came out a year ago, which only discussed the early next thing that will happen - and it's already beginning to stages of U.S. opposition. But it increased. The U.S. happen - is that the victory of the Iraqis against the United wanted to write a constitution, it wanted to impose some States has begun to stir up similar sentiments in the Shiite kind of caucus system that the U.S. could control, and it areas (mostly Shiite areas) of Saudi Arabia, which is a tried to impose extremely harsh neo-liberal rules, like you neighbor. mentioned, which even Iraqi businessmen were strongly opposed to. But there has been a very powerful nonviolent DM: ...and a US ally. resistance in Iraq - far more significant than suicide bombers and so on. And it simply compelled the United NC: Yeah, but that's inside Saudi Arabia, and that States step by step to back down. That's the popular happens to be where most of the oil is. They have been movement of nonviolent resistance that was symbolized excluded by the US and Saudi leadership, but they're not by Ayatollah Sistani, but it's far broader than that. The going to be likely to accept that if there is a sovereign, 2
  3. 3. democratic Iraq next door. It's really a Shiite-dominated wrote an Op-Ed - Thomas Walker, again, leading Central Iraq. And it's already beginning to happen. Well, you American scholar - distributed it to newspapers all over know, that'll lead towards a situation in which most of the the country. They wouldn't touch it. They have a party line. world's oil would be under the control of a relatively You're not allowed to deviate from it. It's not followed with autonomous Shiite alliance. The US won't tolerate that for 100% rigidity, of course, but it's pretty substantial. And, a moment. The next thing that would happen in a yes, there is virtual terror at the idea that anyone might sovereign Iraq is that they would try to resume their very deviate. If you want to get a good sense of what it's like natural position as a leading state in the Arab world. among the sort of left/liberal component of the intellectual They're the most educated country, the most advanced and academic world (not the far right), have a look at this and so on. In many ways, it should be the leader in the month's issue of the American Prospect, which is quite a Arab world. Actually, those are factors that go back to good journal. It has interesting material; it had quite a Biblical times. And they'll try to resume that position, which good article by Juan Cole on Iraq which says pretty much means they'll try to rearm. They will confront the regional what I just said about the elections. And there are other enemy, namely Israel, which has virtually turned into a US good issues. But take a look at the front cover, which is military outpost. They may even develop weapons of mass quite intriguing actually. The front cover shows the destruction as a deterrent against Israel's overwhelming embattled left/liberal intellectuals caught between two advantage, both militarily and in weapons of mass powerful forces on both sides. On one side, there's a destruction. Those are very natural developments to be scowling picture of Dick Cheney. So, in one corner you expected. Can you see the US accepting any of this? I have Dick Cheney and the White House, the Pentagon, mean, those are the likely consequences - not certain, but the most powerful military force in history. That's one side. likely consequences - of a relatively sovereign, more or On the other side, is....me. less democratic Iraq. It's a nightmare for the United States. It's no wonder it tried to prevent elections in any DM: [chuckle] possible way, and is now trying to undermine the results. What happens is gonna be on a terrain of plenty of NC: Those are the two powerful forces between which struggle, and we have a role in it. US public opinion can they are crushed. What that tells you about...I mean, if I be highly influential during the outcome. We don't live in a could put it on my CV, I would, because it's the greatest dictatorship; we have plenty of freedom if we want to use praise I've ever had. [chuckle] I must be the most powerful it. It can be used to help the Iraqis regain control of their academic in history. But it shows you their mentality. own society. They're terrified. They're pathetic people, terrified by the idea that somebody might not repeat what they say. And DM: Specifically, on that, our readers are especially might be two millimeters to the left of them on some interested in the role of the university in this development issue. I think that's what you're probably finding. Not just that you are discussing. Let me give you one example that me. Books written by Princeton professors - you know, is of concern: you have been writing political works for eminent Princeton professors - who are critical of the party more than four decades. Yet, I have been unable to find a line can never get reviewed. Have you seen... single undergraduate course in recent years here at Princeton that has had any of your political works on its DM: Absolutely. Edward Sa'id is a good example. reading list. Does that surprise you? NC: What? NC: It would surprise me if it were any different. In fact, if you were to mention my name to most of the faculty in the DM: Edward Sa'id is an excellent example of that. relevant areas, they would probably react with screams of horror. I mean, we have a very doctrinary intellectual NC: Yeah, but take a look at Richard Falk's latest book. class. They do not like deviation from a very narrow party line. Now, in regional studies, it's very hard to control. DM: Yes. That's one of the reasons why Middle East departments are coming under extreme attack from the more NC: He's the most important Princeton professor, totalitarian forces in the country (like Horowitz, Pipes and plausibly. others), who can't stand the idea that there's some independent - or partially independent - sector of the DM: On the other hand, someone like Bernard Lewis is society that isn't under tight...that isn't a wholly owned treated as an eminent Princeton professor. subsidiary of the business world and the right wing. So, they're going berserk. And it's happened in other areas. NC: Well, sure. But he says what they wanna hear. For example, in the 1980's, the main US preoccupation was its wars in Central America - brutal, vicious, terrorist DM: Right. Let me ask one more question. wars, and to large extent wars against the church. The Latin American Association of Professional Scholars just NC: For example, all of this....since you mentioned wouldn't go along. They were just pretty much excluded. Edward Sa'id, in all of this hysteria about how students To give one example, Nicaragua was a big issue; the and faculty are being intimidated by the overpowering left, leading academic historian on Nicaragua, Thomas Walker, like me, did you hear anything when for years Edward regularly (several times a year) wrote and sent op-eds to Sa'id (who was a close personal friend, incidentally), his the New York Times - not a single one was published. He office and his apartment were under almost constant just sent another one after this outrageous government- police protection and offered FBI protection? In his media propaganda ploy about how the elections in El apartment he had some sort of way of signaling the local Salvador were a model for Iraq. The elections in El police department if anything happened. The reason for Salvador were just outlandish! It's true that the media this wasn't just because somebody was, you know, praised them, that's their job. Follow the party line. He criticizing him. He was under death threats constantly 3
  4. 4. from terrorist groups that were being infiltrated by the hundreds of students in classes. They usually ran them at police. Was there any David Project objecting to this? night, so they couldn't take much credit for them (formal credit, I mean, but they could contribute to programs). I DM: In For Reasons of State, you wrote the following: ran them at night so they could be community "One element in the unending struggle to achieve a more participation. A lot of things came out of it, I mean not just just and humane social order will be the effort to remove that. But it was a way for people to get together, students the barriers that stand in the way of the particular forms of with common interests and concerns, and to pursue them individual self-fulfillment and collective action that the more actively. A good deal of what has gone on in the university should make possible." Almost 40 years later, country since has come out of things like that. For do you think that any of these barriers have been example, South End Press, Z Magazine, ZNet, a bunch of removed at places like Princeton, Harvard, MIT? things like that, are mostly from students who were initiating those things at MIT at the time. I was happy to NC: Sure. Let me just take MIT, because I know it best, cooperate with them if I could. One of the ways was by but it's the same everywhere. At the time I was writing, in just offering courses that they could be active in. They the 1960's, if you walked through the halls of MIT, you went right through to...they had the last one about two would see white males, well-dressed, disciplined, years ago. At the time, there were two junior instructors respectful to their elders, and so on. You walk down those who did most of the work. Both of them had been students halls today: half women, about third minorities, casual in the last of those courses I taught around 1990 when relations among people show up in everything from they were undergraduates. The only reason I stopped is clothes to personal relations. And that's all over the the pressure of giving talks, interviews and so on - I just country; I presume it's same at Princeton. Those are couldn't continue on my own time and keep my indications of very significant changes in the society, professional work going. So yeah, these are among the which became much more civilized, including the normal things that students could do. universities. You see it in many ways. These are largely, to a large extent, the results of activism of young people DM: Dr. Chomsky, thank you very much. and many other groups. And it can certainly continue. And let me just end, to take one.... NC: All right, good talking to you. DM: OK. Just one last question, perhaps... This message has been brought to you by ZNet (http://www.zmag.org). NC: Just to take one last example, just to illustrate. DM: OK. NC: The US attacked South Vietnam in 1962. That's when Kennedy started bombing South Vietnam. They started using chemical warfare to destroy crops. They began programs which ultimately drove millions of people to what amounted to concentration camps and slums. Was there any protest? This went on for years before there was any protest. By the time protests sort of began to be significant, South Vietnam, which was always the main target of the attack, had practically been destroyed. But take the Iraq war. For the first time in European history - Europe, and with the United States - for the first time in Western imperial history, a war has been massively protested (here too) before it was officially launched, not four or five years later when the country was wiped out. Well, those are changes towards making it a more civilized society, and it shows up in universities too. They're much more open than they used to be. DM: Let me just ask one more quick question. Universities as doctrinary institutions, as "systems of imposed ignorance." What can students do to resist this? NC: Students are at a period of their lives when they are more free than they have ever been or ever will be. They have left parental control; they are not yet under the control of the coercive institutions of ordinary life, the need for subordination to higher-ups and hierarchic institutions and the need to make a living and so on. They have enormous freedom, and they can do anything they want. They don't like the courses in the university? Set up counter-courses. At MIT (where I am) for 25 years, as long as I could manage it, I taught on my own time undergraduate courses on the kinds of things I write about which, as you say, would not be on the curriculum. I had 4

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