Noam Chomsky: "...fifty years ago analysts pointed out that the US has essentially one political party, the business party, with two factions called Republicans and Democrats"
NC: On the other hand we barely have a political system. I mean, fifty years ago analysts pointed out that the US has essentially one political party, the business party, with two factions called Republicans and Democrats. And they consistently follow policies that are in the interest of their business constituency and sometimes of some help to the population, sometimes not. You can see it all the time.
This is why the truth about what socialism really is can’t be told in the United States, it is of course demonized by the ruling class, corporatists. If the people had power they would make the system more equitable and the oligarchy can’t have that. They are desperate right now, that is why their control the news media has gotten so strong and clowns like Sarah Palin are created. In this way they can manipulate the 35%-40% who stopped reading long ago and can’t think for themselves. They still believe the news media is telling them the truth because they have no other information to compare it with. As long as they keep them thinking about anything except what is actually happening in this country they will not be a problem for them. They will focus on myths rather than facts. There are others who have been eliminated through homelessness, incarceration or other types of disenfranchisement they don’t even have to bother manipulating them. So, that leaves 45%-50% who have at least a partial idea of reality and that is a large enough percentage to stop them. Let the Tea Party carry their misspelled signs while they talk about Faux News mythology, the rest of us could stop them if we wanted to.
I mean take, say, President Obama. The core of his funding was financial institutions. By now they're the largest part of the economy. They don't contribute much to the economy but they have enormous weight. They're probably forty percent of corporate profits - very questionable what they contribute to the economy but anyway they are very powerful. And that was the core of his funding. And in the tradition of US politics, which has been quite well-studied, well-documented - in that tradition it's typically the case that the concentration of funding pretty well determines the policies. The funders expect to be paid off. So it comes as no great surprise that the beneficiaries were the very financial institutions who tanked the economy. And you could see that right away.
I mean, the people he picked as his economic advisers were not Nobel laureates who had condemned the policies that led to the crisis and so on. Not people like Joseph Stiglitz or Paul Krugman and others. He picked the people who created the crisis: the Reubenites - Robert Reuben who was the supervisor, Lawrence Summers was famous for having undermined regulation of derivatives, one of the main causes of the crisis, Tim Geithner who was at the New York Stock Exchange. And they created an enormous bailout of financial institutions. I mean, something was obviously needed. The financial institutions had destroyed the economy so something had to be done. But it's very doubtful that it had to be done in a way that enriches those who created the crisis and makes them more powerful than ever. But that's what you'd expect from the way politics works.
CU: Now, do you think that's a conscious decision by Obama where he says, You know what, I'm going to pick they guys who destroyed the economy anyway because I got paid by these guys? If it's not a conscious decision, how does that decision come about?
NC: If you go back to the Politburo in the Soviet Union and you ask what the people were thinking, we have a good idea what they were thinking because there have been internal documents released. They were thinking that they're saving democracy from the assault of the fascists led by the United States. They're gonna bring wealth and benefits to people.
You read Japanese fascists - we have a ton of documents because they're a conquered country. The documents of Japanese fascists are just overflowing with loving kindness. I mean, when they were carrying out huge massacres in China they were bringing an "earthly paradise" to China and protecting the people from the "bandits" who were trying to undermine it and so on and so forth.
Almost anything you look at you find self-serving ideologies created.
CU: So is Obama brainwashed by the system?
NC: I don't know anything about Obama. You'd have to ask his psychiatrist and his family. And I also don't think it matters. I mean, I don't care what, say, Brezhnev actually thought. I care what he did.
CU: Alright, fair enough. And then finally, let's if we can - another broad question about solutions. We're in this mess and the takeover seems complete. You and I might disagree on some things but we agree on that. All of our politicians are bought. It's a machine. It's a system. You've explained it eloquently here. How do we fix it, if we can?
NC: Well we can. In fact if you look over American history there have been waves of progress and then regression.
So the current situation for example is somewhat similar to the 1920's. Inequality, which is colossal, is about what it was in the 1920's. The labor movement had pretty much been destroyed. Independent thought had been severely repressed by Woodrow Wilson's red scare and other devices. And there were celebrations in the 1920's about a utopia of the masters, the end of history.
Well, you know, in the 1930's that radically changed. There were popular movements, they democratized the country, they created very significant, the government was compelled to create significant welfare measures, social security, labor rights and so on which greatly improved the country. I mean, they weren't perfect but they were a significant improvement.
In fact, the regulation of financial institutions was so good that there weren't any financial crises until these began to be dismantled in the '70's and '80's.
And you take a look at the 1960's. Yeah, popular movements then also led to a significant democratization of the country. The protection of the freedom of speech, as I mentioned, was essentially on the wave of the civil rights and other popular movements: women's rights, a very significant fact, the rights of ethnic minorities. You know these created a more free and just society.
And it can happen again. It's not gonna happen by itself. It takes work, dedication, effort. But it can happen.
CU: So how did they do it then and what can we learn from that so we can do it now?
NC: Well it's not a big secret. I don't know how old you are but I lived through both of them. I was a child in the 1930's. I was very active in the 1960's. There's no big secrets: education, organization, dedication, commitment, picking actions appropriate to situations. All of that works. You can look through the details. So, sit down strikes in the 1930's, organization of women's consciousness-raising groups in the '60's and '70's, anti-war activism. I mean, all of these things work. They have to be done of course. They don't happen by themselves.