Chomsky: The Soviet Union Versus Socialism

Following the discussion two threads down, I want to link this short piece by Noam Chomsky, written in 1986.

…In periods when there is little challenge to State capitalist institutions, the same fundamental commitments lead the ‘new class’ to serve as State managers and ideologists, “beating the people with the people’s stick,” in Bakunin’s words. It is small wonder that intellectuals find the transition from ‘revolutionary Communism’ to ‘celebration of the West’ such an easy one, replaying a script that has evolved from tragedy to farce over the past half century. In essence, all that has changed is the assessment of where power lies. Lenin’s dictum that “socialism is nothing but state capitalist monopoly made to benefit the whole people,” who must of course trust the benevolence of their leaders, expresses the perversion of ‘socialism’ to the needs of the State priests, and allows us to comprehend the rapid transition between positions that superficially seem diametric opposites, but in fact are quite close.

The terminology of political and social discourse is vague and imprecise, and constantly debased by the contributions of ideologists of one or another stripe. Still, these terms have at least some residue of meaning. Since its origins, socialism has meant the liberation of working people from exploitation. As the Marxist theoretician Anton Pannekoek observed, “this goal is not reached and cannot be reached by a new directing and governing class substituting itself for the bourgeoisie,” but can only be “realized by the workers themselves being master over production.” Mastery over production by the producers is the essence of socialism, and means to achieve this end have regularly been devised in periods of revolutionary struggle, against the bitter opposition of the traditional ruling classes and the ‘revolutionary intellectuals’ guided by the common principles of Leninism and Western managerialism, as adapted to changing circumstances. But the essential element of the socialist ideal remains: to convert the means of production into the property of freely associated producers and thus the social property of people who have liberated themselves from exploitation by their master, as a fundamental step towards a broader realm of human freedom.


  1. tim
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    the perversion of ’socialism’ to the needs of the State priest

    That fucker sure knows his game and doesn’t try to hide it.

    If I was to paraphrase: “The essential element of socialism is to manipulate the exploited workers of capitalism, only in a way that allows us [the ‘elite’] to own their entire lives instead of just the portion of their labor that they freely give. And it is my [chomsky] job to make that shit sandwich taste like a big mac for all the well fed middle class idiots who would march themselves into concentration camps if I told them it was a weight loss clinic. TRUST ME, I get paid WELL to make this simple shit sound complicated to give all those intellectuals something to make them real feel smart.”

    So to paraphrase myself FUCK NOAM CHOMSKY.

    Oh and if you are thinking I didn’t read the 2nd paragraph- Their is not one thing in a capitalist society keeping the workers from “Mastering production”. And as soon as some perfumed dipshit like Chomsky tells you there is, you can be sure he ain’t a good guy, and he is just one of the people trying to establish control of the population. He will cry crocodile tears about how the people need liberated, all while helping his masters enslave them. So FUCK NOAM CHOMSKY.

  2. Posted April 15, 2009 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Hm, it sounds like you misunderstood something there.
    He’s saying that “Lenin’s dictum […] expresses the perversion of ’socialism’…” He’s saying that Lenin’s politics essentially are not different from that of the Western politicians: follow the elite, they know better.

    What is it you don’t like in it?

  3. Posted April 15, 2009 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    It is also worth noting the great appeal of Leninist doctrine to the modern intelligentsia in periods of conflict and upheaval. This doctrine affords the ‘radical intellectuals’ the right to hold State power and to impose the harsh rule of the ‘Red Bureaucracy,’ the ‘new class,’ in the terms of Bakunin’s prescient analysis a century ago. As in the Bonapartist State denounced by Marx, they become the ‘State priests,’ and “parasitical excrescence upon civil society” that rules it with an iron hand.

    The Noamster tends to be a bit, shall we say, conclusionary, but not the worst analysis of bolshevik errors; and NC has read his Bakunin–a bit mo’ than most self-styled leftists (ie PoMos) could say.

  4. Posted April 16, 2009 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    while the whole outburst by tim is delightfully insane, this part kinda nags me: Their is not one thing in a capitalist society keeping the workers from “Mastering production”.

    ever heard of a little thing called CAPITAL, monsieur tim? in the words of the lolcatz – labour doez not haz it!

    seems to me that tim is kind of missing the forest of thought for the tree-stump that bears a person’s name.

  5. Posted April 16, 2009 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    Well, he probably means that a worker is free to improve his skills in his narrow area of specialization. Or something.

  6. tim
    Posted April 16, 2009 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    No, I meant you that workers are free to not consider themselves “labor”, and go get some ~CAPITAL~ of their own. The places I ever remember reading about having such highly stratified classes are the ones in the socialist utopias you think are so great.

    And don’t let the fact that I think Noam Chomsky is a deceptive piece of shit distract you from the fact that I’m right.

  7. Posted April 16, 2009 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Hmm, if they all somehow become capitalists, who is going to do all that labor for them? Not clear.

    You’re right about what? Are you saying that an employee-owned company and/or publicly owned land is an impossibility?

  8. tim
    Posted April 16, 2009 at 11:09 pm | Permalink

    No it’s very possible, and it happens all the time. It just doesn’t have to be brought about by the government.

    Hmm, if they all somehow become capitalists, who is going to do all that labor for them? Not clear.

    How about out of work politicians. Or how about the intelligentsia whatever the hell that is.

  9. Posted April 17, 2009 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    Poor Tim.

  10. Posted April 17, 2009 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Oh, the government is there (always) to protect the existing property owners. That’s its only function. For those socialist guys to succeed, they would have to squash the government first, just like the Confederate government had to be defeated for the slaves to be freed.

    After that, government – no government, who knows.

  11. Posted April 19, 2009 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    the other question that tim skips gaily by is the question of where the heck capital itself comes from. it does not, of course, fall like mana from the heavens – it is a byproduct of certain assumptions made by people of the worth of various objects including some heavy metals, food grains, territorial demarcations and also importantly the power to enforce such values over a large number of people. hence, government.

    having been created for the perpetuation of one long-dead set of people’s assumptions, that’s what the machine continues to do…

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