By Sean Nevins
WASHINGTON (VOR) — Recently, Radio VR took a trip to Cambridge, Massachusetts to sit down and speak with Professor Emeritus Noam Chomsky of M.I.T.
Dr. Chomsky is famous the world over for his work in linguistics but moreso his political philosophies and beliefs. He is a self-described anarchist, and more specifically, an anarcho-syndicalist.
Radio VR discussed a number of issues with Dr. Chomsky, including anarcho-syndicalism. Specifically, we inquired into what it is, how it arises, and how it can be applied by people that want to affect positive change in the world.
The transcript is below:
Sean Nevins: I kind of want to start off by asking you to briefly describe what is anarchism and more specifically anarcho-syndicalism?
Noam Chomsky: Well, I think the best characterization that I know is given by one of the leading thinkers and activists in the modern anarcho-syndicalist world, Rudolf Rocker, who described anarchism, in general, as not a specific set of beliefs that provides particular answers to all the questions that can arise, but rather what he called ‘a general tendency in the history of humanity’ which aims to inquire into the nature of social, economic, political structures to determine, to detect structures of hierarchy and domination and to challenge them to demonstrate their legitimacy. They are not self-justifying and if they cannot defend their legitimacy on some plausible grounds then to dismantle them and reconstruct then from below. And to do this in the context of the existing society, developing alternative institutions that are more free and more just in the hope of moving on to a world of free associations of workers’ communities controlling their own institutions, their own fate in association with one another of various kinds of federal arrangements and so on. That is the basic thrust of anarchism. Altogether it is my view and of anarcho-syndicalism in particular which is designed for complex industrial societies.
Sean Nevins: So, you are talking about workers controlling their own work and controlling the enterprises of that work and expanding out into the community?
Noam Chomsky: It’s one of crucial aspect of it. In fact, anarcho-syndicalism kind of shades off into left anti-Bolshevik Marxism. People like Anton Pannekoek, Paul Mattick, Karl Korsch and others have sympathetic relationships and ideas and the great anarchist achievement like the 1936 Spanish Revolution before it was crushed, did have the strong and sympathetic support of left Marxists who felt a community of interests and commitments.
Sean Nevins: Workers controlling their own work — How is this organized? And how does it arise?
Noam Chomsky: Well, it’s all over the place. First of all it is a constant development takes place all over. There were efforts in Eastern Europe, for example, in self-management in Yugoslavia. Right now in the United States, in the old decaying Rust Belt, where industries are collapsing, they’re being replaced, to a certain extent, by worker owned and partially worker-managed enterprises. There is one huge institution that’s Mondragon, a great conglomerate in Spain which is worker owned and the manager is selected by workers but not actually worker-managed which is a collection of heavy industries, banks, hospitals, community living and so on.
Sean Nevins: Do they arise, kind of, spontaneously and is there a system that regulates how the workers organize themselves, like maybe in the US, like they do it one way, and then over in Spain, [at] Mondragon, they’ll do it a different way. Is there any kind of vision?
Noam Chomsky: There is no leadership or Bible, things develop on the basis of the circumstances that exist. So the conditions in Rust Belt in Northern Ohio and in Catalonia and in Aragon in 1936 are quite different and the backgrounds are quite different. But there were similarities in the way the take-over by working people, peasants of their own lives proceeded.
Sean Nevins: Let’s say that Mondragon wants to have an association with somebody in the Rust Belt…
Noam Chomsky: That is what is happening in fact. I don’t know how far it’ll go, but one of the major US unions, the steel workers, has now entered into some kinds of interactions with Mondragon to try to work out ways to develop Mondragon-type system in the old industrial sections of the US and revive them on the basis of worker-ownership and community-ownership in control.