Noam Chomsky – Creating a Libertarian Socialist Society

I think that the libertarian socialist concepts, and by that I mean a range of thinking that extends from Left-Wing Marxism through Anarchism; I think that these are fundamentally correct and that they are the proper and natural extension of classical liberalism into the era of Advanced industrial Society in contrast it seems to me that the ideology of state socialism, that is what has become of bolshevism and of state Capitalism, the Modern Welfare state. These of course are dominant in the Industrial countries and industrial societies but I believe that they are regressive and highly inadequate social theories and that a large number of our really fundamental problems stem from A kind of incompatibility and inappropriateness of these social forms to a modern industrial society a French writer rather sympathetic to Anarchism once wrote that Anarchism has a broad back like paper it endures anything and There are many shades of anarchism And I’m concerned here only with one namely the anarchism of Bakunin who wrote in his anarchist Manifesto of 1865 that to be an anarchist one must first be a socialist I’m concerned with the anarchism of Adolph Fischer one of the martyrs of the Haymarket affair in 1886 who said that every anarchist is a socialist, but not every socialist is necessarily an anarchist a Consistent anarchist must oppose private ownership of the means of production such property is indeed, as Proudhon, his famous remark asserted, a form of theft But a consistent anarchist will also oppose the organization of production by government I’m quoting, it means state socialism, the command of the state officials over production and the command of managers, scientists, shop officials in the shop the goal of the working class is liberation from Exploitation and this goal is not reached and cannot be reached by a new directing and governing class Substituting itself for the bourgeoisie it is only realized by the workers themselves being master over production by some form of workers councils These remarks, it happens, are quoted from the Left-wing Marxist Anton Pannekoek and in fact radical Marxism What Lenin once called infantile ultra leftism merges with anarchist currents There’s an important point. I think and let me give one further illustration of this convergence between Left-wing Marxism and socialist anarchism Considering the following characterization of revolutionary Socialism The revolutionary socialist Denies that state ownership can end in anything other than a bureaucratic despotism We have seen why the state cannot democratically control industry Industry can only be democratically owned and controlled by the workers electing directly from Their own ranks Industrial administrative committees Socialism will be fundamentally an industrial system its constituencies will be of an industrial character Thus those carrying on the social activity and industries of society will be directly represented in the local and central councils of social administration In this way the powers of such delegates will flow upwards from those carrying on the work and conversant with the needs of the community When the Central administrative industrial committee meets it will represent every phase of Social activity Hence the capitalist political or geographical state will be replaced by the industrial administrative committee of socialism The transition from One social system to the other will be the social revolution The political state throughout history has meant the government of men by ruling classes The Republic of Socialism will be the government of industry administered on behalf of the whole community the former meant the economic and political Subjection of the many the latter will mean the economic freedom of all it will be therefore a true democracy These remarks are taken from a book called the state its origins and function written by William Paul in early 1917 just prior to Lenin’s State and Revolution, which is his most libertarian work William Paul was one founders of the British Communist party later the Editor the British Communist party journal And it’s interesting that his critique of state socialism Resembles very closely I think the libertarian doctrine of the anarchists in particular in its principle that the state must disappear To be replaced by the industrial organization of society in the course of the social revolution itself Proudhon in 1851 wrote that what we put in place of the government is industrial organization and many many similar comments can be cited that in a sense is the fundamental idea of Anarchist revolutionaries What’s more important than the fact that many such statements can be cited is that these ideas have been realized in Spontaneous revolutionary action several times for example in Germany and Italy after the first world war in Catalonia in 1936 One might argue at least I would argue that Council Communism in this sense in the sense of the long quotation that I read is the natural form of Revolutionary Socialism in an industrial society It reflects the intuitive understanding that democracy is largely a sham when the industrial system is controlled by any form of autocratic elite whether of owners managers technocrats a vanguard party a state bureaucracy or whatever under these conditions of Authoritarian domination the classical liberal ideals Which are expressed also by Marx and Bakunin and all true revolutionaries Cannot be realized man will in other words not be free to inquire and create to develop his own potentialities to their fullest the worker will remain a fragment of a human being Degraded a tool in the productive process directed from above the ideas of Revolutionary Libertarian Socialism in this sense they’ve been submerged in the industrial societies of the past half century the dominant ideologies have been those of state Socialism and state capitalism But there’s been an interesting resurgence in the last couple of years fact the theses that I quoted from Anton Pannekoek they were taken from a recent pamphlet of a radical French workers group and the quotation that I read from William Paul on revolutionary Socialism was taken from a paper by Walter Kendall at the National Conference on workers control in Sheffield, England Last March both of these groups the French and the English one represents something significant the workers control movement in England in particular Has developed into a I think remarkably significant force in the last few years it includes some of the largest trade unions for example the amalgamated engineering federation which I think is the second largest trade unit in England and which has taken these principles as its fundamental ideas It’s had a series of successful conferences putting out an interesting Pamphlet literature and on the continent there are parallel developments May 1968 in France of course accelerated the growing interest in Council Communism and similar ideas other forms of Libertarian Socialism in France and Germany as it did in England given the general Conservative cast of our highly ideological Society it not too surprising that the united states is relatively untouched by these currents but that too may change the erosion of the Cold War mythology At least makes it possible to discuss some of these questions And if the present wave of repression [can] be beaten back if the left can overcome its more suicidal tendencies and build on the achievements of the past decade the [problem] of how to organize industrial society on truly democratic lines with democratic control in the workplace as [well] as in the [community] this should become the dominant intellectual issue for those who are alive [for] the problems of contemporary Society and and as a mass movement for revolutionary Libertarian Socialism develops as I hope it will speculation should proceed to action Now [it] may seem quixotic to group left Marxism and Anarchism under the same rubric as I’ve done given the antagonism throughout the past century between marxists and anarchists beginning with the Antagonism between Marx and Angles on the one hand and for example Proudhon and Bakunin on the other in the 19th century at least their differences with regard to the question of the state was significant but in a sense it was tactical the Anarchists were convinced that capitalism and the state must be destroyed together Angles in a letter of 1883 Expressed his opposition to this idea as follows The anarchists put the thing upside down they declare that the proletarian revolution must begin by doing away with the political organization of the state But to destroy it at [such] a moment [would] be to destroy the only organism by means of which the victorious Proletariat can assert its newly conquered power Hold down its adversaries and carry out that economic revolution of society without which the whole victory must end in a new defeat and a mass slaughter of the workers similar to those after the Paris commune the Paris commune I think it’s fair to [say] did represent the ideas [of] Libertarian socialism of anarchism if you like and Marx of course wrote about it with great enthusiasm He in fact the experience of the commune led him to modify his concept for the role of the state As you can see for example by looking at the introduction to the Communist Manifesto the the addition of it was published in 1872 And to take on something like a more anarchist perspective of the Nature of Social revolution well the commune was of course drowned in blood as the anarchist communes of Spain were destroyed by Fascist and Communist armies and It might be argued that more dictatorial structures would have defended the revolution against such forces But I doubt this very much at least in the case of Spain Seems to me that a more consistent libertarian policy might have provided the [only] possible defense of the revolution Of course this can be contested, and it’s a long story which I don’t [wanna] go into here, but [at] the very least It’s clear [that] one would have to be rather naive after the events of the past half century To fail to see the truth in Bakunin’s repeated warnings that the red bureaucracy would prove the most vile and terrible lie of the century He once said take the most radical revolutionary and place him on the throne of all the Russia’s, to all Russia, He said in 1870 or give him a dictatorial power and before a year has passed he will become worse than the Tsar himself I’m afraid in this respect [Bakunin] was all too perceptive and this kind of warning was repeatedly voiced from the from the left For example the anarcho-syndicalist Fernand Pelloutier asked 1890s must even the transitory state to which we have to submit Necessarily and fatally be the collectivist Jail? Can’t it assist in a free organization limited exclusively by the needs of production and consumption all political institutions having disappeared? I don’t pretend to know the answer to that question But I think it’s tolerably clear that unless the answer is positive The chances for a truly democratic revolution that will achieve the humanistic ideals of the left are perhaps rather slight I think Martin Buber put problem quite succinctly when he said One cannot in the nature of things expect a little tree that has been turned into a club to put forth leaves for just this reason It’s essential that a powerful revolutionary movement exists in the united states if there are to be any reasonable possibilities for democratic social change of a radical Sort any within a capitalist world and Comparable remarks, I think undoubtedly hold for the Russian Empire Lenin till the end of his life stressed the idea I quote that it is an elementary truth of Marxism that the victory of Socialism requires the joint effort of workers in a number of Advanced countries at the very least it requires that the great centers of world imperialism be impeded by Domestic pressures from Counter Revolutionary intervention only such possibilities will permit any revolution to overthrow its own Coercive state institutions as it tries to bring the economy under direct democratic control I’ve mentioned so far two reference points for a discussion of the state classical liberalism and libertarian socialism They’re in agreement that the functions of the state are repressive and that state action must be limited The Libertarian socialist goes on to insist that the state power must be eliminated in favor of the democratic organization of industrial society With direct popular control over all institutions by those who Participate in as well as those who are directly affected by the workings of these institutions So one might imagine then a system of workers’ councils, consumers’ Councils, Commune assemblies, regional Federation’s, and so on With the kind of representation that’s direct and revocable in the sense that Representatives are directly answerable to and returned directly to the well-defined and integrated social group for which they speak in some higher-order organization something obviously very different than our system of representation Now it might very well be asked whether such a social structure is feasible in a complex highly technological society There are counter arguments and I think they fall into two [main] categories first category is that such an organization is contrary to human Nature and The second category says roughly that it’s incompatible with the demands of efficiency, and I’d like to briefly consider each of these Consider the first that a free society is contrary to human nature It’s often ask do men really want freedom? Do they want the responsibility [that] goes with it? Or would they prefer to be ruled by a benevolent master? Consistently apologists for the existing [distribution] of power have held to one or another version of the idea of the happy slave 200 Years ago Rousseau denounced the sophistic politicians and intellectuals Who searched for ways to obscure the fact, so he maintained, that the essential and defining property of man is freedom They attribute to man a natural inclination to servitude without thinking that it is the same for freedom as for innocence and virtue Their value is felt only as long as one enjoys them oneself and the taste for them is lost As soon as one has lost them As proof of this doctrine he refers to the marvels done by all free peoples to guard themselves from oppression True, he says, those who have abandoned the life of a free man Do nothing but boast incessantly of the peace and repose they enjoy in their chains But when I see the other sacrifice pleasures repose wealth power and life itself for the preservation of this soul good Which is so disdained by those who have lost it when I see multitudes of entirely naked Savages scorn European voluptuousness and endure hunger fire the sword and death to preserve only their independence [I] feel it does not behoove slaves to reason about freedom a comment which To which we can perhaps give a contemporary interpretation Rather similar thoughts were expressed by [Immanuel] Kant 40 years later He cannot he says accept the proposition that certain people are not right [for] freedom for example the serfs of some landlord if one accepts this assumption he writes freedom will never be achieved For one cannot arrive at the maturity for freedom without having already acquired it One must be free to learn how to make use of one’s powers freely and usefully The first attempts will surely be brutal and will lead to a state of affairs more painful and dangerous than the former condition under the dominance but also the protection of an external authority However one can achieve reason only through one’s own experiences and one must be free to be able to undertake them To accept the principle that freedom is worthless for those under one’s control and that one has the right to refuse it to them forever Is an infringement on the right of God himself who has created man to be free this particular remark is Interesting because of its context as well. Kant, in this occasion, was defending French revolution during terror against those who claimed that it showed the masses to be unready for the privilege of freedom and His remarks to I think have obvious contemporary Relevance No rational person will approve of violence and terror and in particular the terror of the post-revolutionary state Which is fallen into the hands of a grim autocracy has more than once reached indescribable levels of savagery at the same time no person of Understanding or humanity will too quickly condemn the violence that often occurs when long subdued masses Rise against their oppressors or take their first steps towards liberty and social reconstruction Humboldt just a Few years before Kant had expressed the view very similar to that he also said that freedom and variety are the preconditions for human self-realization Nothing promotes this ripeness for freedom so much as freedom itself This truth perhaps may not be acknowledged by those who have so often used this unripeness as an excuse for continuing repression But it seems to me to follow unquestionably from the very nature of man The incapacity for freedom can only arise from a want of Moral and intellectual power to heighten this power is the only way to supply the want but to do so presupposes the freedom which awakens spontaneous activity and those who do not comprehend this he says may justly be suspected of Misunderstanding Human Nature and wishing to make men into machines Rosa Luxemburg’s fraternal sympathetic Critique of Bolshevik ideology and practice was given in very similar terms Only the active participation of the masses [in] self-government [and] social reconstruction Could bring about what she described as the complete spiritual transformation in the masses degraded by centuries of bourgeois class rule just as only their creative experience and spontaneous action can Solve the myriad problems of creating a Libertarian Socialist Society she went on to Say that historically the [errors] committed by a truly revolutionary movement are infinitely more fruitful than the infallibility of the Cleverest central committee and [I] think that these remarks Can be translated immediately for the somewhat parallel ideology of the soulful corporation Which is now fairly popular among American academics for example Carl Kaysen who writes No longer the agent of proprietorship seeking to maximize return on investment Management sees itself as responsible to stockholders, employees, customers, the general public, and perhaps most important, the firm itself as an institution There is no display of Greed or grasping this There’s no attempt to push off on the workers of the community at least part of the social costs of the enterprise The Modern Corporation is a Soulful corporation Similarly the [vanguard] party is a soulful party and in both cases those who urge [that] men submit to the rule of these benevolent Autocracies may I think justly be accused of wishing to make men into machines Now the correctness of the view which is expressed by rousseau and Kant and Humboldt and luxembourg and innumerable others I don’t think that the correctness of this is at the moment Susceptible to scientific proof — one can only evaluate it in terms of experience and intuition But one can also point out the social consequences of adopting the view that men are born to be free Or that they are born to be ruled by Benevolent Autocrats [what] of the second question the question of efficiency is democratic control of the industrial system down to its smallest functional units Incompatible with efficiency? This is very frequently argued on several grounds some say for example that centralized management is a technological imperative But I think the argument is exceedingly weak when one looks into it The very same technology that brings relevant information to the board of managers Can bring it at the time that it is needed to everyone in the Workforce The technology that’s now capable of eliminating the stupefying labor that turns men into specialized tools of production this technology permits in Principle leisure and the educational opportunities that make them able to use this information in a rational way and Furthermore even an Economic elite which is dripping with soulfulness to use Ralph Miliband’s phrase Is constrained by the system in which it functions to organize production for certain ends: power, growth, profit But not in the nature of the case human needs, needs that to an evermore critical degree can be expressed only in collective terms It’s surely conceivable and perhaps It’s even likely that Decisions made by the collective itself will reflect these needs and interests as well as those made [by] various Soulful elites in Any event it’s a bit difficult to take seriously Arguments about efficiency in a society that devotes such enormous resources to waste and destruction As everyone knows the very concept of efficiency is dripping with ideology Maximum maximization of commodities is hardly the only measure of a decent existence the point is familiar and no elaboration is necessary

32 thoughts on “Noam Chomsky – Creating a Libertarian Socialist Society

  1. This is part of a lecture given by Noam Chomsky in the Poetry Center in New York, 16 Feb. 1970.

  2. DemoCRIPS and ReBLOODlicans: No More Gangs in Government Paperback – May 28, 2013
    by Jesse Ventura (Author),‎ Dick Russell (Contributor)

  3. "But Libertarian Socialism is an oxymoron" – Every dumbass reactionary that knows jackshit about left ideology but thinks they're a powerhouse of intelligence.

  4. Marx n Engles Fucked it all up. Tge workers could have remained fully in control,BIG IF those 2 simpletons Marx and Ankles would not have felt like they had to get their impotent cuckery in before the levers of power were handed to the prolitariat.
    Cannot imagine how much more civil and relaxed we could all be.

  5. ANARCHY=Life as a priceless irreplaceable gift.

    Responsibility for ones self is humanity.

    Liberty can only acheived from accountability.

    A Qaulity Life is achieved by a self empowered, righteous pursuit of ones own aspirations. To pursue ones own calling without contempt or apathy.

    Anarchy is all around us. Blinded by a Hierarchy, based in Psycopathy, with an illusion they grip tightly to their illusion of control. Clearly infectious just look at the hypocritocal, nahscient, daily enslavement to the idiocracy of a hierarchical company store. The saddest part is not that you carry little curiosity as to how the US became so great?
    No most melancholy is that the longest period of this kleptocratic illusion has achieved a nonaggressive peace is 5 whole years. For 200+ years war upon war on millions and millions of brothers and sisters lost for the racketeering of the hierarchy.

  6. 1:11 "Every Anarchist is a Socialist, but not every Socialist is necessarily an Anarchist."
    4:56 "Council Communism…"

  7. Whether it’s 2018 or 1978, professor Chomsky’s brilliance
    is deeply felt. Either he was never a child, or he was born
    at the age of 45.WOW !,,

  8. I am not a socialist but I would like to be as informed as possible – so if any out there who have an understanding of Chomsky would consider these questions I would be grateful.
    1. How long does he think that the members of councils will be sufficiently engaged and informed that they will administer those councils competently -, including holding those they elect to account?
    2. How will he prevent those who's competences are essentially in the field of getting elected to lead and administer the councils simply becoming a professional political class and thereby return to the evils of centralised governance that he would avoid?

  9. The state/government/public-sector in the foreseeable far-future/long-term when bottom-up social-cultural-political-legal-economic/socio-cultural-political-legal-economic marxist/marxian socialism with marxist/marxian communism in mind comes to fruition but only once the labor-force military-force/external police-force and the police-force/internal military-force are fully-thoroughly-and-fatally the criminal-force will be made redundant and thereby abolished even the military-force/external police-force and the police-force/internal military-force can be greatly reduced or drastically reduced since a secularised-and-rationalised society through-and-under the broader work-force except the labor-force-like job's/career's/occupation's/profession's/rank's/position's/field's in the broader work-force which are quintessentially bull-shit job's/career's/occupation's/profession's/rank's/position's/field's in the broader work-force or white-collar job's/career's/occupation's/profession's/rank's/position's/field's so blue-collar personalities-and-psychologies/mind-set's have-and-will be liberated/emancipated/vindicated

  10. Could workers councils decide how much of profit goes to investments and how much into salaries (consumption)?

  11. Fuck Bolshevikism go anarch capitalist, true libertarianism, agorism, or voluntaryism. Communism always leads to fascism they're effectively the same authoritarian menace used to destroy the human spirit. We need less government not more, socialism is just thinly veiled communism

  12. finally someone who agrees with me, both of our parties and systems are corrupt. i hope A.I will help humanity grow into a new idea that respects our civil rights, aids the working class, fulfills our basic needs like food and shelter and gives us the freedom we once fought and died for.

  13. What exactly is to stop me, in this coercion free society, from simply selling my labour to someone who is willing to buy it? If I'd rather take a job for wages than join one of these worker communes, what is stopping me?

  14. I do not think that the problem is that people are not mature enough for freedom, I think that a public organization with clear rules, clear punishments and a clear level of authoritarianism is way easier to organize efficiently and is porbably more efficient overall (as long as the majority of the people are politically relevant) than a system without rules, punishments and at least a slimmer of authoritarianism. Also a society with laws and a more central decission making can adapt quicker.
    And I don´t think that you can entirely bridge this gap through a change in culture, education and ethics, which is again very ahrd to reach in an anarchist society anyway.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *