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NoamChomskyAnInterviewForGreeceIMFAndMore

The following interview took place at the bureau of Noam Chomsky at MIT in November 2010. Questions: by Spuros Zouboulis and Ilias Marmaras.

The interview was published at the Greek monthly magazine Konteiner.

---Hardt and Negri in ďEmpireĒ note the decline in sovereignty of nation-states, and thus, imperialism; the new form of sovereignty, the ďEmpire,Ē is composed of a series of national and supranational organisms united under a single logic of rule. The Empire is constituted by a monarchy (US, G8, organizations such as NATO, IMF, WTO), an oligarchy (multinational corporations and other nation-states) and a democracy (NGOs and UN). The concept of Empire, Hardt and Negri continue, presents itself not as a historical regime originating in conquest, but rather as an order that effectively suspends history and thereby fixes the existing state of affairs for eternity. Empire presents its rule not as a transitory moment in the movement of history, but as a regime with no temporal boundaries and in this sense outside of history or at the end of history. Capitalism has put itself outside and above history. What is there to follow? How would the next phase be established? Does capitalism actually precipitate its destruction in the Schumpeter sense? Or will it indefinitely move in cycles, perpetuating itself?

> Well, itís a little difficult for me to answer, because I donít accept the framework, so I canít really talk within that framework.

---Please feel free to redefine it.

> Sovereignty relates to power. If you go back to, say, the second World War, the United States was overwhelmingly powerful. And it insisted on a form of sovereignty which is granted no one else. In fact it was quite explicit that the post-war planning was on the basis of the US domination of a global order, which would be open to the US economic penetration, political control, US based corporations, and in which US sovereignty would be protected from any international treaty or institution. But no exercise of sovereignty would be permitted, which conflicts with US designs. And in fact thatís the way it has worked out - so when the US accepted World Court jurisdiction in 1946, it added a reservation saying that the US canít be brought to court under any international treaty, but UN charter, later the genocide intervention and so on and similarly everything else. When the US signs an international treaty it is almost always with a reservation. So take, say, torture, which is a big issue now. The US did sign the international torture convention, but only after it was rewritten to exclude the modes of torture and they happened to be exactly the ones that the CIA was using. And this is quite general, in fact it becomes a major issue. But now other countries are beginning to insist on exercising sovereignty independent of US demands. So it happens to be very strikingly critical right now. Just to take one example: what is regarded in the United States as the central foreign policy issue, the most important foreign policy issue is Iran. Why is Iran a problem? Well, if you look, the reason is not any threat. Itís ridiculous to discuss, in fact itís dismissed in official documents.

The reason is that Iran is exercising its sovereignty. Itís trying to extend its influence to neighboring countries, and thatís called destabilizing. So itís destabilizing Iraq and Afghanistan, its neighbors, by extending its influence to them. We donít say that the United States is destabilizing Latin America - maybe you should Ė but we donít say itís destabilizing Latin America or Europe. But the point is thatís an exercise of sovereignty within a region that is crucial to the US world control, at least oil, and of course thatís not permitted. In any case, Iran, they can sanction it, maybe they will attack it Ė Iran is a weak country, but there are other cases where they canít do it. And thatís causing big problems. China is exercising its sovereignty. And China doesnít want to be pushed around. After the ďcentury of humiliation,Ē as they call it, now they are recovering their position as a little kingdom. Donít care about the barbarians, going back for 3000 years. China is refusing to accept US demands. In fact itís leading to a kind of desperation in the US. A couple of weeks ago the State Department issued a kind of a warning to China which said, I am almost quoting, that if China wants to be accepted into the international community - thatís a term that means the US dominated world order Ė so if it wants to be accepted into the US dominated world order, it has to meet its international responsibilities. What are its international responsibilities? To follow the US orders on sanctions on Iran. Of course the US sanction on Iran had no forcing under law or anything else. Europe doesnít want to interfere with US power too much but China refuses. So the US is saying look, you have to obey our sanctions, this is not the UN sanctions (China is happy to accept those cause they are completely toothless) but the US sanctions which are harsh. And the Chinese just laugh. And thatís conflict.

All of this fits into quite traditional views of how the world is organized and you donít need to think about any ďend of historyĒ and ďEmpireĒ and so on. These seem to me abstractions that flow very high above reality. It is true that there are limitations on sovereignty. For example Mexico canít do things that the United States can do. But this is kind of old-fashioned. Take capitalism. Whatís capitalism? Is the United States a capitalist country? I mean letís take this thing over here, the computer. Where did that come from? Well it came from places like Building 20 right down below here where it was 100% funded by the Pentagon. Computers were in this state system for roughly 30 years. It wasnít until the late 1970ís that anyone could sell a computer and make a profit, and thatís about 30 years after digital computers were designed. When I got here in 1955, a computer was something that filled several rooms with vacuum tubes blowing up and some waited six weeks to run a punch card program. You couldnít sell those things. By around 1960, it was possible to reduce a computer to a sort of a big mainframe and in fact some of the top engineers who were working at Lincoln Labs pulled out and started a mainframe company, which was the first. But they still couldnít sell. IBM was able to learn enough from the military labs to be able to produce its own fast computer in the early 60ís. But there was no one to sell it to. In fact procurement is a major form of state subsidy to the corporate system. Without pointing to the details, I think it was 1977 when Apple was able to sell a computer. Where did the Internet come from? Same place right down below where we are sitting. It was in the state sector for about 30 years before private enterprises were involved. You are flying in an airplane. What is that? Itís a modified bomber. The aeronautics and the fancy avionics and the electronics comes mostly from Air Force. You buy something at Walmart. Itís something cheap. Why is it cheap? Because it comes in container ships. There werenít containers, they were invented by the navy. The thing is itís hard to define part of the advanced economy that isnít very closely connected to the state sector. If you walk around MIT where we are right now, you see the next building over is a cancer center. A bit further is Novartis, and so on. If you had walked around 50 years ago, you would see electronics. Now itís too health related. Why? All the cutting edge in the economy is now biology based. Therefore state funding is coming into biology based research and development totally and substantially and Pentagon funding at MIT is declined. Thatís the way the economy is developing. The state has a role. It has to create the next stage of advanced economy. Businesses donít want to take the risk and pay the cost, they want the taxpayer to do it.

So if you have a system of transferring risk and cost to the public and eventual profit maybe 30 years later, because it is privatized, is that capitalism? Thatís employing workers, you make profit, in that sense itís capitalism. In fact it is some form of complex state capitalism. Go to China, the second biggest economy. Different form, but they have some kind of state capitalism. You also employ workers, you have profits, targeted investment and so on, so itís another form of state capitalism. If you take a look around the world, except in third world countries which have markets rammed down by force (one of the reasons is so that they stay in the third world), you have all kinds of radical market interference. In fact itís talked about now because the bailout of the financial institutions (which is so dramatic, the state just moved in and said we will pick your toxic assets and put you back in business. Or General Motors will buy you and set you back to business.)Ö So thatís dramatic state intervention but itís nothing new. The economy rests on that as back as you want to go. Take England in the 16th-17th century.

---No matter whether we use the label ďcapitalismĒ or something else to describe the current state of things, do you think that the current state of things is stable?

> No, it is changing all the time.

---What is it evolving to?

> Take western economies, or US. Back in the 1960ís they were manufacturing based. Starting in the 1970ís there was very rapid financialization of the economy. By now finance in the United States is maybe 1/3 or more of corporate profits. Thatís 10 times what it was in the 1970s. Thatís a radical change in the economy, and it has many effects. One effect is hollowing out of domestic manufacturing production. This is, say, a Dell computer, it was very likely assembled in China. The profits and the management and high technology donít come from China. US corporations provide high tech and take the profits, managing in combination with the Chinese state. There are significant changes in the economy. And things will change more, I donít think we are fixed. Itís never been fixed. But I donít see that there is a dramatic new stage taking place, itís further changes in the way private capital finds ways to make profit, with the state as its subsidiary pretty much. Now, multinational corporations call themselves corporations, but they are state based. They rely on their home base for subsidies or procurement or control of resources. They are located where they are.

---I want us to spend some time talking about your beliefs on anarchism Ė or libertarian socialism if you prefer. According to Rocker, ďthe problem that is set for our time is that of freeing man from the curse of economic exploitation and political and social enslavement.Ē In this light, I want you to address your support of anarchism. How does libertarian socialism account for and give solutions to crises/anomalous situations? Are you against democratic representation? Are you against elections?

> Talking about the current global systems, anarchism doesnít give answers because these are not anarchist arrangements. But if we are interested in a more free and just society and ask should we have elections, sure, why not. I mean if we have a town meeting somewhere and decisions have to be made, then people have to work it out among themselves what decision they want and itís kind of an election. Or letís say there is a faculty meeting in my department, 10 people, and you have to admit students or select a course. You have to make a decision. You donít call it an election, but itís a decision made by the group. And that could be international. Maybe we can have the whole world making decisions and there would be some mechanism for them doing so, an association with one another and there is nothing wrong with going with elections.

---What about elections that elect representatives of people?

> Well, that is what you ought to have. Take even something as small as faculty in a department. We do pick individuals to take on certain tasks, like somebody agrees that he or she will take on the task of shifting through 1000 applications and reducing them to 100. Thatís representative democracy. But of course it is always with recall. If the group doesnít agree with a person, you are out. Somebody else will do it. Or if the person says I just canít do this anymore, then we make some adjustment. I think the same would be true in any institution you can think of, small or large. It is like in a family, you distribute tasks because itís not the case that everybody wants to do everything. But with recall, supervision, nobody has any particular authority.

I donít think we know enough about human beings and society to spell out in precise detail what a future society would look like. There are anarchist theoreticians that have tried to do so. The most extensive I know is about de SantillŠn (Argentinian I think, was involved in the Spanish revolution, anarchist theorist) who was critical of the anarchists in the Spanish revolution, he thought they should be doing things differently, and he wrote a quite a detailed study (I think itís called ďAfter the RevolutionĒ in Spanish) saying what a society should look like. In my view itís too detailed but there are others who are trying to do it right now, like my friend Mike Albert. A lot of people are working on it but they try to answer almost every question, and there is all this work on the libertarian society. But we discussed this over the years and my feeling is more experimentation is going to be needed even to decide thatÖ Take, say, markets. They want to eliminate markets and for good reasons, there are a lot of things wrong with markets. I think there are arguments that a market can be an information processing system. Market systems donít have to be associated with profit or payment or anything like that, they can be a way of determining what people want. So is that the right way or not or can central decisions be made over what we produce and what we consume? I donít think we have answers to these questions, and I disagree with Mike (Albert), he thinks we can get answers, but I am skeptical. Anyway I think experimentation will be needed. In this respect I agree with Marx. Marx didnít give any prescriptions for future society. If you look at all of Marxís collective works there are scattered sentences about what a post-capitalism society will be like. His position, as I understand it, was that the way the society should be designed will depend on decisions of the producers after they have taken control of production over the bourgeoisie and so on. There is something right about that I think, I donít believe our understanding is sufficient to determine how a society could work justly and efficiently and those are different criteria, they conflict often, but you have to know how to balance them.

---Sticking to the issue of elections, intense discussions followed the recent abstention regarding the regional and municipal elections in Greece, elections that took the form of acceptance or resistance to the IMF. I donít want you to talk about the politics of IMF, as that will be a subsequent question. You have mentioned once Thomas Ferguson's words: elections are circumstances in which investors confederate in order to invest on the control of the state. We also know that in our democracies political parties do not agree with the public in many issues so they keep these issues out of the table. Do you consider abstention from the elections as a form of resistance, especially in the current Greek political and financial context?

> I donít feel qualified to prescribe Greeks what they have to do but in general, and I am generalizing a bit, there are elections in the United States where I just refused to goÖ because I thought that the only sensible choice was to pay no attention to the whole process. There are other elections in which I do vote, and I often vote for someone I canít stand because the circumstances are such that the other candidates could be much worse. I didnít like Obama one bit and expected nothing from him, I am not disillusioned, but nevertheless if I had been in a state where it mattered - it doesnít matter in Massachusetts - I would have voted against McCain, meaning necessarily for Obama. Here I get to do what I feel like: either abstain or vote for the Green party, which I did, because at least they are trying to construct something alternative. I think these are low level pragmatic choices, I donít think they are very principal issues. Itís a matter of trying to make a judgment over a 10th order question: How will things be, what are the consequences of picking one of a series of options: voting for one of the official candidates, voting for an alternative candidate, or just staying away? We may simply ask what are the consequences of these actions. I donít think itís a major issue, this is something you spend 20 minutes on election day, but there are much more important issues I think.

---Sticking to the issue of anarchism, in general, and independently of specific spatial and temporal contexts, do you see the state as an unnecessary and harmful apparatus, strange to society? Do you believe that democratic decision making in self-managing communities is a viable political substitute to the flawed democracies of modern West?

> My own feeling is that many of my anarchist friends get too abstract when they discuss this issue. We live in a world in which our actions have consequences. Human consequences, important ones. So take, say, the state. I agree with the general idea that the state as we understand it is an oppressive system and a system of authority that we should try to dismantle. On the other hand, I am also in favor of strengthening the state because the state is not the only system of power that exists.

---Isnít that a contradiction?

> No itís not a contradiction. It is believed to be a contradiction but it isnít.

---Why is it not?

> Because we live in this world, not in some world of our imagination. And in this world, you have only a restricted range of choices. You might wish you had different choices, but you donít. The choices you have in this world are how to balance systems of illegitimate authority. One of them is state, which is at least in part accountable to the population, the other source is private tyrannies, which are not even in principle accountable to the population. So a corporation is just a totalitarian system. It orders from top down, the bottom, and they are accountable to the public only via certain limited state measures. So itís as if you have a saber-toothed tiger out in your backyard and you have a policeman out in your backyard with a gun. You donít like the policeman with the gun, but you like the saber-toothed tiger less. So you Ďd rather have the policeman. Because those are your choices. You can say ďI donít like authority, I am going to be against all of them,Ē but you donít have that choice.

So this is the choice we have. Do I want to have, say, health and safety regulations in factories? Yes, I do. Is a corporation going to introduce them? No. Can the state introduce them? Yes!, within a public pressure opinion. And these are decisions that are made all the time. Do I care about a disabled widow who was no money? Do I want her to eat? Yes. Is General Electric going to give her something to eat? No. Is Social Security going to give something to eat? Yes. So I support the state. If you had other options you could talk about those options, but in the real world, in which you function, you just have certain options, not others. And in those circumstances I do think itís important to protect state power. There is a nice image that is used by workers in Brazil, they call it expanding the floor of the cage. So we are living in a cage, we donít think people are to be in cages, but we are living in one. Outside the cage there is the saber-toothed tiger, we want to expand the floor of the cage so to protect ourselves from the worst predators, and that cage is the state. We donít like it, but thatís the means of defense that we have. And it is partially accountable to the public. So what the public does can affect state policy. What do we want? It is not zero either, it is significant.

And you can see it, take the fiscal crisis (which is not the major crisis that we face I donít think but itís one), take say the United States, who are the post-war global dominant. The US didnít have a fiscal meltdown until the 1970ís. Starting from the 1970ís, there are repeated series of fiscal crises. Say the loan crisis at the end of the Reagan administration, which is the worst since the Depression. Then there was the tech bubble which is another crisis 10 years later. And then comes this housing bubble and another huge crisis. And there are plenty of others in between, just picked the big ones. But there werenít any until the 1970ís. Why? Because the financial institutions were regulated! They were regulated by the state, with New Deal regulations. And same is true with the IMF. The IMF during those years permitted capital controls, countries to have capital controls, and that protected them from financial crises. Also one of the reasons for establishing the Bretton Woods system, the post-war economic system, wasÖ it was established by social democrats, Keynes, White, basically social democrats, they wanted some space for welfare states and if you allow free flow of front finance, you canít have social democratic policies. Itís what some call a ďdual constituencyĒ, the population and investors and lenders, who can carry out the moment by moment referendum on current policies and if they donít like them they can go against them; they can go against them by attacks on currencies, by flow of capital on its own. So unless finance is controlled, that second constituency is going to determine policy. And it happens all the time, even in big countries. Take, say, France under Mitterrand, it backed down, because the other constituency is just going to destroy the economy. But that wasnít until 80ís. In the 1960ís that wouldnít have happened because the barriers to speculate and transfer capital are much more strict. These are real facts, people care about fiscal crises, and you should be going to the kind of state or international management that can restrict and can also leave some space for welfare state measures. These are not perfect, but they are good. I would rather have, say, Medicare than no medical care. And those are the choices.

So I think one should be pretty cautious about this. There are lots of things that canít be done under existing circumstances and they are not catered to long term objectives. People want, say, large scale revolution and they are sensible about it, they also want reform; thatís not a contradiction. You want to press existing institutions as far as they can go because the only time you will have a real challenge to them, other than, say, a military coup, a real challenge is if the general population comes to understand that these institutions canít go any farther, that if we go any farther we are going to dismantle them. And when thatís understood, then you have a revolution of situation. And it is going to be small scale too. Take, say, a sit-down strike in a plant. A sit-down strike is just one step short of the workers saying ďLook I am not going to sit here, I am going to start running the plant, and keep out the owners just because you donít need them.Ē I think thatís the step that ought to be taken and thatís why sit-down strikes are so frightening to management and the government. Itís when the CIO is beginning to carry out sit-down strikes they really start getting the deal measures. Thatís the right way to go I think, letís push the institutions to the point where people functioning within them say this is not the right way to go, and they wonít allow more freedom, so we Ďll take it.

---You mentioned the IMF and I want to ask you on IMFís politics towards Greece. As you know Greece is under the siege of the IMF. In the past you have described the policies of the IMF toward the third world countries as devastating by describing their orders/demands in brief as follows: first the IMF asks them to pay off their debts, second to privatize so their assets can be picked up cheap and third to raise up the rates so as to slow down the economy and force the people to pay back. On the contrary, the IMF crisis policies against the US and other western countries are exactly the opposite. Forgetting about the debt, reducing the rates to minimum so as to sustain the economy and get bigger debts, no privatization but, instead, nationalization. In brief, on the one side instructions and orders for the poor and on the other side designed policies for the rich. Do you think that the IMF applies the former tactics in Greece right now? In other words, is Greece 6 years after the Olympic Games considered by the IMF to be a third world country?

> I believe that what you quoted is fundamentally accurate - of course if you look in details there is more nuance and complexity - but I think these principles are a very good first approximation. And I am hardly surprised, after all who is the IMF? It is the rich countries and of course thatís the policies they design for the benefit of the rich. Look at the World Trade Organization: it doesnít develop free market policy, it develops a combination of liberalization and protectionism and investor rights, which is congenial to the people who are designing multinational corporations and a few states to support them. And if that werenít true, it would be amazing. So itís close to truism. And same with the IMF. There are second-order effects, which are not insignificant, but to a first order thatís a pretty good approximation and in fact it is recognized! One of the American executive directors of the IMF wants to describe the IMF as the credit communities enforcer. Incidentally, this is all very anti-capitalist, radically anti-capitalist. So for example, if I lend you money and I know itís a risky loan, so I get high interest; in pure capitalism I lend you money, you are a risky borrower, I charge very high interest, and you pay me all that interest, I get rich, at some point you canít pay any more. In a capitalist system what happens? Well, I am stuck with the bad loan, period. In the real system what happens is your neighbors have to suffer, the people in the country have to suffer, in order to pay back the loan and my neighbors (in the rich country) have to pay me, tax payers, because I donít want to lose any money. And thatís the IMF! When a structural adjustment is imposed, thatís a punishment for the poor Ė they didnít borrow the money. The money was borrowed by military dictators, gangsters, whoever, but now they have to pay for it. And I, the rich lender who lent the money, and now the tax payers have to pay through it to bail me up. This is radically anti-capitalist! So when we talk about the existing capitalist system, we have to laugh, but thatís the IMF fundamentally. Itís a completely illegitimate system, in fact - if we believe in capitalism, the debts will be paid by those who incurred them, not those who happen to live in a country where somebody else incurred them. And those who lent the money and enriched themselves with high interest rates, they are out of luck once the debt is canceled. In fact thatís exactly what would happen in a simple capitalist system with just people, not huge institutions. Same with the banks in the United States: when they go broke because of their risky lending, they expect the tax payer to bail them out. There is nothing capitalist in that! In a capitalist system they are out of luck. They lose their money. Well, thatís the fundamental role of the IMF, it is the credit communities enforcer.


What should Greece do? Thatís a tricky question because we are back to the matter of living in this world, rather than living in a just world - or even, living in a capitalist world. If we lived in a capitalist world, itís obvious what Greece would do. It would say ďget lost.Ē That would be the capitalist world. It happens to be this world, not a capitalist world, not a free world. So what do Greeks do in this world? Now we are back to being in the cage and having the saber-toothed tiger outside. You canít say itís not there. It is there. So you have hard choices to make within an existing world of injustice and oppression. And just what those choices should be is a hard matter that people in Greece have to work out themselves. Maybe they should default, for example. Go out of the Eurozone. Thatís one possibility which has been proposed. If they did, they could adjust the currency and cancel debts which are what are called ďodious debts.Ē Itís an important concept that was invented by the United States, back around a century ago. When the US conquered Cuba - itís called liberating Cuba, but in fact it conquered Cuba in 1898 - Cuba had a lot of debts to Spain and the United States didnít want to pay them naturally. So they used the concept of odious debt which said that these debts are not legitimate because they are forced on Cuba, which is perfectly true. Those are called odious debts so we didnít have to pay them. Same in Philippines and a couple of other cases, but in fact practically all the debts to countries are odious debts that are forced on people. They may be accepted by the government, but the government doesnít represent the people. So they are accepted by somebody, but the people didnít get it so there is no reason why they should pay them. So in a just world, the debts would just be canceled. We live in a world of power distributions, can you dismantle the power systems?

---My last question is going to be on the current political and social movements in Latin America. And the reason I am asking this is because the information that makes it to Europe and, in particular, Greece about South America is not necessarily precise. After 500 years of colonization in Latin America it seems that something is happening there. I want to ask you a couple of questions. What is your opinion regarding the cultural and political movements? Is there any differentiation in comparison with European or Asian movements?Analysts note the two kinds of lefts: the political parties that have achieved power and the indigenista movements, and the two kinds do not have identical objectives and use quite different ideological language. In Latin America the objective of the indigenista movements is not economic growth but coming to terms with ďPachaMama,Ē or Mother Earth. They say they do not seek a larger use of natural resources, but a saner one that respects ecological equilibrium. They seek ďBuen VivirĒ ó to live well. The dilemma that arises is, does the path toward a better life for people in the global South lie in a socialist concept of society coupled with constant economic growth? Or is it through what some are calling a change in civilizational values, a world of Buen Vivir? This debate is currently argued among the forces of the Latin America left. How does it extend to the internal strains in Asia, Africa and even Europe?

> Thatís one of the debates; there are other debates. So, for example take, say, Brazil, the most important country. Brazil has probably one of the most important social movements in the world, the MST, the Landless Workersí Movement. There is a political party, the Workersí Party, which won the election; they are close but they are not identical. I have attended MST meetings and they explain ďlook, we will support some of their policies, but they are not our representative. We are going to pursue our own policies of collectivization, land take-over and work for the poor peasants, and so on. Insofar as the Workersí Party sort of cooperates, OK, we Ďll cooperate too, but we are on our separate path; maybe some sense of neutral support but separate. They are paying off banks and so on Ė thatís not our policies. They are also running a poverty program, OK, that part is to a little extent OK.Ē Thatís one conflict.

There is another one, which is the one you brought up, which is much more far-reaching. And thatís honestly being pressed by the indigenous communities. They are the most repressed group in the atmosphere those who have survived; the North is mostly exterminated, but the South has still survived and substantially. So in Bolivia they are the majority; in Ecuador itís close, not the majority, but pretty close, they are a strong group throughout the Andean region. These are quite powerful groups, and they are in fact advocating a policy pretty much like what you described, often exactly like what you described, saying ďlook, we want a livable earth, we want a livable society which lives in harmony with the earth, which we donít ignore, itís part of our life.Ē So in specific, Ecuador, Indians say ďlook, I donít see any reason why my society should be destroyed so that people can be in traffic jams in New York.Ē Thatís essentially what the choice comes down to, oilfields. And Ecuador certainly has oil spills that [Ö?]. And that battle is going on in Asia too, thatís not just a South American battle. So for example, in India half the country is a flame because of the government efforts to invade tribal areas to take resources. This is leading to a real war; basically when you get down to the core of it, itís people who want to preserve their lives and their societies from, say, mining, state and international corporate mining interventions, which essentially destroy everything. Just this summer I saw the same thing in South America. I was in Colombia. In southern Colombia there is a remote endangered world, villages which are trying to protect their resources, like a mountain near the village, from the mining corporations and government efforts to privatize water. Privatization of water may kind of look good in some economic seminar, but what it means is we donít get any water, because we canít pay for it. So there is battles about that. And so this is going on in Colombia, this is going on in India, this is going on in Ecuador, and in fact it is going in Appalachia in the United States, where there is this cheap way of mining gold, that is cut off the top of the mountain, throw it out; I donít need to tell you what the effect of that is. And there are struggles against it and of course itís complex, because the workers in the mines - we are back to the cage - the workers in the mines donít have any other employment. So if gold mining stops, they starve. So as workers in the mines they say OK, as people who live in the valley they say no - could be the same person.

These struggles are all over the world and of course, going one step beyond, should we be mining gold in the first place? Now we get to the real crisis. If we continue to use fossil fuels the way we do, the rest of this discussion is moot, because there is not going to be any viable society. So we are really at a moment in history where the fate of the species is in question - this goes beyond the fiscal crisis and democracy or anything else. And itís going the wrong way. We are going in a direction which is extremely destructive and threatening and thatís kind of an overriding crisis which puts everything else in shade.

But all these problems arrive in all of the world. South America is a very interesting case for just the reason you mentioned, itís been 500 years since the Spanish and Portuguese invaders came. And throughout that whole period, South America has been colonized in one form or another; sometimes direct colonies, sometimes neo-colonies, but essentially under foreign control, first European, later American control; and the countries have been separated from one another, and there is also internal separation. Every one of them has a small, mostly Europeanized, sometimes white elite; very rich, very privileged, oriented toward the West, with second homes in Riviera and children going to school in Harvard and that sort of thing. And there is a huge massive deeply impoverished people. Latin America has potentially very rich resources, but it has some of the worst poverty and inequality and social problems in the world. And these two issues of disintegration - countries separate from one another, and internal disintegration between wealthy elite (which is oriented toward the West) and massive population - those issues are being addressed for the first time in 500 years. There are a lot of different ways and various barriers and setbacks but at least the issues are being faced for the first time. And thatís dramatic, and some of the examples are pretty striking, and some not so much - but they are also separating themselves from the United States! Thatís very important. Itís not like China saying ďdonít push us aroundĒ but itís getting to the point where itís not far from that. So for example, about last February I guess, the western hemisphere countries formed a union including all of Latin America, excluding the United States and Canada. That hasnít begun to function seriously yet, but itís a step. Itís a step towards overcoming the stranglehold of imperialism. Now, to go back to your original point about Hardt and Negri, I think these are real things that are happening.

---As opposed to abstract?

> As opposed to some abstract pictures it doesnít seem to me that connect very closely to the world or, at least from my point of view, provide a useful frame of analysis. But I think these developments are quite important, and this question of, say, growth versus a viable relationship to earth and the environment, those are real and those are one of the several conflicts that are going on and that we find all over the world. And we canít skip it either in rich cities like Boston, because we are going to be under water if we keep going on this way.

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