Chomsky states his position clearly here on a crucial issue of revolution, and violence. I think that his position has become a new dogma and its failure was visible in the OWS, if that is a fair collation of two ‘anarchist’ viewpoints. Its influence in soft-damping radicalism is apparent, but hard to judge exactly.
This is not the same as debating Jacobinism or Leninism. I would be more than happy to study the limits of such leaders/isms.
But the issue of violence requires careful study. Non-violence as a dogma is a gift to rightwingers. Examples such as MLK show the usefulness of Gandhian tactics. But this was a partial assault on segregation. Not a change in government.
We need, for guidance, to take the example of history, to wit the modern transition since the Reformation. The Reformation, the English Civil War, the American Revolution and the French Revolution, etc…
The verdict is very clear: the gains of modern freedom were in all cases brought about by violent conflict. Not a single political revolution has occurred via Gandhian methods, with the question of the Indian colonial war up in the air. It is doubtful if Gandhi was the cause of Indian independence, which was probably decided on by the British very early.
I think Gandhi attempted an innovation in the context of Jainism (and Tolstoy), but its status is ambiguous. It has been condemned by a cultural Jain like Rajneesh who observed India could have achieved independence in the twenties with a few truckloads of rifles.
We should continue to deal with the Gandhian option. But its chances are minimal.
So let us be clear about Gandhian sentimentality: without violent conflict modern man would have no democracy. And the result being superficial invoked its successor, socialism to communism as democracy fulfilled via postcapitalism. Critiquing democracy as co-dependent on capitalist ‘freedom’ brought a swift response from the new revolutionaries of postcapitalism, and these arose almost immdiately in the wake of the French Revolution: by 1848 the issues of the future were clearer. The issue of Jacobins is simply as always, up in the air. The charge of violence is meaningless if we don’t consider that massive armed intervention from European powers to suppress the French Revolution.
The first phase of the Russian revolution brought about democracy, and after the violence of the First World War the effort, although not Gandhian, was less violent. That is misleading, of course. The real core of the revolution was in fact just that world war. At the end, the forces of reaction simply collapsed
At this point we tend to sidetrack into discussions of Leninism/Bolshevism. But here the example of the early modern was also lost. The platform of the Bolsheviks was itself flawed. It failed to understand the ‘dialectical’ close match of democracy and communist market abolition. The issues of personal freedom and liberal right were sacrificed in the name of the abolition of the rights of capitalists. That inconsistency was fatal. I don’t think any of the nineteenth century revolutionaries quite understood what to do.
But, in any case, the regime of capitalism was rapidly analyzed by such as Marx. To be sure, he did not invent communism, and should at least in principle be open to challenge as a ‘usurper’ of the idea. But he grounded the idea of postcapitalist communism. And it is the latter that is the ‘solution’ that we must both critique and adapt to a new period of capitalism.
I think that the critics of Leninism (leading to Stalinism) are justified in their views. The problem was a failure to define a postcommunist economics in advance.
In any case, the attempts by ‘public intellectuals’ to enforce Gandhian tactics is bad history and bad strategy. Are we going to deal with the people who brought us the Iraq war with Gandhian methods?
So we have simply pointed to the history of the early modern revolutions. Gandhianism is a complete red herring. The persist because of their invaluable superiority in street demonstrations against militarized force. But even that much has been dealt a fatal blow with militarized police methods.
The damage done by intellectual goofs like Chomsky is almost unforgivable at this point. And the additional bullshit regime on the Kennedy and 9/11 conspiracies simply leads to the suspicion that he is in some sense complicity with this regime.
The world is running out of time here. We should have had a new left decades ago.