Either Noam Chomsky has been replaced by an alien pod, or I have fallen through a dimensional rift into the bearded Spock universe, but according an interview in the Guardian, Chomsky had some rather harsh things to say about his old friend.
“Concentration of executive power, unless it’s very temporary and for specific circumstances, such as fighting world war two, is an assault on democracy. You can debate whether [Venezuela’s] circumstances require it: internal circumstances and the external threat of attack, that’s a legitimate debate. But my own judgment in that debate is that it does not.”
In particular, Chomsky demanded the release of Judge Maria Loudes Afiuni who Chavez put into prison after she freed a prominent banker, Eligio Cedeño, who had been jailed on fabricated charges of corruption.
So why did he do this? I think I have an answer, and it comes from something he told me many decades ago, when I spoke with him in Wellfleet, Mass., when I was vacationing in the Cape Cod town. Chomsky, who at times has called himself a libertarian socialist or a Marxist anarchist, told me that he would not travel to Vietnam, despite many invitations, since he knew he would not like the Stalinist regime, and would be compelled to criticize it. Publicly he defended the North Vietnamese Communists and the Viet-Cong because they were under attack from American imperialism, he told me, and he was honor bound to solidify support for the anti-war movement in the United States and the Vietnamese Communists and their government. He would not have been able to carry out that task, he said, had he accepted any of their invitations. But by not personally going to the country, he could avoid criticizing it.
In his interview with the Guardian, he notes that he has made a judgement that the Chavez regime is not under external attack from the United States — and hence he is free to criticize its policies. For Chomsky, this is a major step forward. Until this time, if you care to go through his voluminous writing, he generally calls critics of totalitarian left-wing regimes apologists for the United States. He would never beforehand concede that these regimes were not under severe danger from the United States. By saying that they are not, he has undercut the argument Chavez’s defenders always make about why they must be supported.
That’s two more cheers than I would ever give him. Note that Chomsky knew, or at least suspected that North Vietnam was not exactly a democracy, yet he turned his eyes away from the evils of that regime so that he could continue to attack the United States in good conscience.
I’m glad that Noam Chomsky is on the right side for once, but one good act does not make up for decades of supporting some of the most odious governments in the world.
By the way, I noticed in the article that Chomsky refers to himself as a “libertarian socialist”. How is that possible? Libertarians want as small a government as possible while Socialists want the government to run everything. It would see, that these ideologies would be polar opposites anywhere outside Chomsky’s confused brain.