Chomsky, fascism and the working class

Famed linguistics professor and left-wing icon Noam Chomsky made remarks recently that gave me pause.

Chomsky, 81, said he recalls the rise of Hitler in Germany, and recent political developments like the tea party movement bring him back to that frightening time.

"I have a memory of the texture and the tone of the cheering mobs, and I have the dread sense of the dark clouds of fascism gathering," Chomsky said.

He warned left and progressive people that "[r]idiculing the tea party shenanigans is a serious error." I couldn't agree more.

But, on other things, I couldn't agree less.

Chomsky was off-base in implying the tea party is a working-class phenomenon. It's true that, as he said, there is a "class" resentment among the tea party movement, and the context is the devastating economic crisis and wealth gap that exists in the United States. Undoubtedly there are working-class people among the tea partiers. But the working class does not make up the majority of this movement. Nor does this movement represent working-class interests.

In a recent poll, it was wealthier and more educated Americans, more than others, who identify with the tea party anti-government, anti-Obama rhetoric.

The U.S. working class is a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic, multi-generational, multi-sex class. In my opinion, the broadly-defined view of working class is anyone who has to work for a living. The mono-racial (virtually all white) tea party movement represents corporate and wealthy America's "anti-government" interests, like no taxes on capital gains, or no regulations on pollution, etc. To suggest that this movement is an expression of working class resentment distorts who makes up the social base of fascism.

Fascism springs from the ruling elite, which through their extensive media apparatus, etc., attempts to influence the great majority of working people. And it's the use of racism, in the first place, along with anti-Semitism, immigrant-bashing, homophobia and anti-woman and anti-union attacks, along with anti-government, quasi-religious demagogy, that is the ideological backbone of a fascist movement in America. At a time of mass unemployment, they use racism and anti-immigrant rhetoric to let corporate America off the hook.

Chomsky argued that in the "popular" mind President Obama, the nation's first Black president, is associated with the banking industry and Wall Street. He claimed the administration is ineffective and could be on the verge of collapse, like the Weimar Republic that preceded the Nazi takeover of Germany.

But, first of all, it was not the Weimar Republic that put Hitler in power. Hitler came to power with a nod and wink from the highest levels of German capital.

Fascism - as a system - comes out of the most reactionary sectors of capital. In our country, energy and oil, finance and military capital lead the way and the Republicans are their political party of choice. The most reactionary sector, when most threatened, will consider a suspension of democratic rights, and implementation of a terror-based system of government - with no rights for unions, women, racial/national/religious/sexual minorities, etc.

Chomsky ignores the substantial measures the Obama administration is trying to take to rein in the banks and curb their power, and the bitter opposition campaign being waged by the Republicans and Wall Street.

Republicans have shut down the government, invited in corporate lobbyists to actually write bills and now have turned into the "Party of No" in blocking any reforms.

By ignoring this reality, Chomsky weakens the fighting ability of the democratic movement. After all, if Obama is like the Republicans, and only represents Wall Street, why bother fighting side by side with the administration?

While many of Obama's reform efforts, like the health care law, are not nearly as radical as many of us on the left would advocate, they do represent a step forward, crucial for mobilizing and unifying the class and social forces necessary to prevent any fascist takeover.

There was another speech given recently on anger in America. This one was by Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO and former mineworker, at Harvard University. I thought his speech sought to unify the class, to clarify who is to blame for the economic crisis, and to mobilize, alongside, not against, Obama in order to win reforms that can improve the lives of all people, as well as lay the basis for a more progressive political atmosphere.

Trumka said reactionary forces use divisive "racist and homophobic hate" to channel "justifiable anger" about the wealth gap towards President Obama and "heroes like Congressman John Lewis" and "to divide working people."

He called on the "progressive tradition" of working people in action "organizing unions and organizing to elect public officials committed to bold action to address economic suffering."

It is that kind of rousing vision of unity and action that can block any move towards fascism.

I hope Professor Chomsky, who is an inspiration to so many, considers Trumka's words.


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  • I can't really blame the author for not realizing that the Tea Party's "Roots" were a sort of new populist movement against money monopolists acting in cartel structures with state-sanctioned power in the form of the Federal Reserve. After all, the "elites" that the author correctly identifies as holding the reigns of the system have a vested interest in keeping the mechanisms of societal control totally hidden from the people they wish to contain as serfs.

    If you're Charles and David Koch and you see a new movement emerging, you can dump a few million around different states and make sure to co-opt the group's agenda as it grows.

    What I find disturbing is this author's blind faith in Obama and the Democrats for "trying" to fight back against the system run by a few unseen oligarchs. The whole Democrats = Autobots, Republicans = Decepticons mindset has GOT to be given a heave-ho out the door if we're to wrestle with the fundamental problems of how we got here in the first place.

    Bill Still may be a conservative Republican, but he points out one thing that I see almost everyone on Earth failing to point out: Money is not just a mechanism of societal control (we all place different "values" on money, some call it the root of all evil, but fundamentally money is whatever we assign value to, so of course assigning "value" to "money" is not inherently wrong). The magic in the game of the money-men is simply, "Who controls the quantity in circulation?"

    My flake sister still doesn't understand-- she's 13 years my senior and I try over and over again to tell her-- it's simply this. A private bank that has a nod from a beholden government issues said government its money, at interest. Imagine if all the allowance you were given from YOUR mother was given to you at interest, and how, if you didn't have a paper route, you'd soon default.

    Like Deep Throat said, "Follow the money."

    Posted by Ben, 01/22/2014 11:32am (1 year ago)

  • the Tea Party movement is not working class?

    that's just insanity. inanity. talking to a single Tea Party member would prove the movement is working class.

    Posted by Peter Smith, 07/23/2013 7:05am (2 years ago)

  • Looking back on this piece 3 years later, I don't know whether I should laugh or cry after reading it.

    I think I'd rather listen to people like Chomsky, Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden over the timid Trumka.

    Posted by Jessen Joseph, 07/22/2013 9:56pm (2 years ago)

  • Just to comment on the "Zionist" myth this is exactly the weird propaganda myths that Hitler used almost word for word. A Zionist being someone who wanted an Israeli state. In Weimer Germany you had the Bauhaus and a German avant guarde which flourished and was even popularized. You also had the idealist communists (different from what communism became) like Bertolt Brecht, and Rosa Luxemberg who were active and popular and supported causes like totally Free Radio and Worker's Rights etc. They were active in the democratic process as well. So there was freedom of speech and art. Then Hitler declared this as degenerate and un-German. The so-called Zionist threat in Nazi Germany is many Jews in Weimer Germany had some politcal power. So it was an Other with power. There was coruption but no more than non-Jewish industrialists. But then as today the Zionist myth can be summed up as "wherever there is greed their is an evil Jew behind it" (scary music insert here) and people believed it because it concretized their fears. That is what is happening with the Tea Party. They have been offered an image to concretize their fears (ie. Obama as the evil socialist, communist, facist, Zionist, terrorist, Muslim, forigner, OTHER)

    Posted by Matthew, 05/14/2010 3:58pm (5 years ago)

  • What Chomsky is saying about the tea party being working class is that the majority of the protesters are. Most do not have an income of $250,000 or more (probably on averge $30,000) or less! But they protest the increase of taxes. Hitler spent a great deal of time catering the Nazi image to "Volken" the "common man" heroe-izing the farmers, and the worker for the sake of a national call to "greatness" and found scapegoats that a majority could see as "other" and "enemy". So the Tea Party protesters are simply protesting against their self-interest because their view is skewed by talk radio misinformation. As far as Tea Party being "better educated" well "in what?" Tea Partiers have little understanding of American history, the believe Thomas Jefferson was a "God fearing" Christian, not knowing most of the founding fathers tolerated religion but had pretty harsh things to say and MOST were essentially aethists. Thomas Payne the hero philosopher of the American Revolution certainly was. But Tea partiers don't understand the difference between facism, socialism, and communism. So essentially it is a working class group of people, who if educated are still grossly ignorant, and most likely authentically disenfranchised with legitamate fears but little knowledge of what is going on. But the hard part is many if not most will refute facts because they heard distorted facts elsewhere. These are not people who have written graduate thesis's with 100 citations and any academic rigor. To compare the tea party with Nazism is not exactly accurate. Because in 20th century facism the STATE had the power and the corporate powers were still beholden to the State. So Hitler destroyed much of the industrial complex by banishing and killing the Jewish owners of that industrial complex. TODAY the state is beholden to CORPORATE power and Corporate power can remain quietly in the background almost invisible as it pulls the strings of power. America is a puppet government essentially that still has some shreads of democratic process left. But why was Obama elected? Why not Kucinich? Why not Nadar? or even Ron Paul? Why because these guys are a real threat to Corporate power weather "liberal" or "conservative" These candidates would downsize the military, which means less money going to corporations. Nadar and Kucinich would create a real Universal health plan, while Paul would dismantle all big government whether welfare or warfare. So these candidates though very popular can not get the support of their parties. Because their parties are supported by Pharma, Oil etc.

    Posted by Matthew, 05/14/2010 3:02pm (5 years ago)

  • Corrupted by zionists? What and ignoramous!

    Posted by Red Grandad, 05/01/2010 4:18pm (5 years ago)

  • Prof. Chomsky is intellectually dishonest: it is well documented that Weimar Germany was totally occupied and corrupted by Zionists. There was no freedom of speech, no freedom of art. There was no need to "create" an enemy, it was present and robust. And today in equally occupied and corrupted America, Zionists, as they always do, put one group of people against another. They seduce Blacks with the promise of the "ultimate revenge" for the slavery, and they need illigals as another disruptive element in society. The planet would have been enjoying peace now, if not for Zionists, who apparently have no desires or volitions of second order (philosophers call such individuals Wantons). Prof. Chomsky, as a philosopher, among other things, knows this very well.

    Posted by koshik, 04/30/2010 8:07pm (5 years ago)

  • We are not hateful or crazies.We are Americans !!You can try to demonize the movement if you want.But we will prevail.Not Violent-Not Racist-Just not silent anymore.Why do elites think they "know what is better for us all people?"Th only hate I see,is on the left.Trying to stifle free speech ,put "the people" under a big oppressive government. It is so sad.People wonder why our government does not adhere to the Constitution,only to find out they don't care about the Constitution.The Socialist agenda hates the Constitution.We pray for our President,his family for guidance and safety.And as Americans,not European Elite Americans,we will make our voice known.Spread your propoganda !!Sad that a movement is built on lies,people are not dumb,they will see through the lies!!

    Posted by shellie Lindstrom, 04/25/2010 9:36am (5 years ago)

  • i think terri makes good points the tea party folks r mostly made up of the petty bourgeois who r frightened now that their home equity has shrunk and they r under h2o this has been described as the first generation who will not do as well as their parents. i think markowitz has clarified german fascism those who r interested in further study might want to read "the rise and fall of the third reich " by william l schirer and of course dimitrov "united front against fascism" his description "the open dictatorship of the most reactinary most chauvinistic most imperialist sections of finance capital " is still true even in 21st century usa one might also study how fascism came to power in japan, italy, spain, portugal, etc b4 ww2. very few workers r involved in the tea party. and this aint fascism just good old right wing politics trying to get back in power in november to continue to under mine unions social security etc certainly a threat but not fascism further study of the mccarthy period in our country mite help clarify this. in solidarity jim

    Posted by jim, 04/24/2010 12:13pm (5 years ago)

  • You raise several good points, Terrry, but put me on the side of the folks who look at the glass as half empty and not half full. I guess I view your step forward as only a half step forward.

    Chomsky is right though. Ridicule of the Tea Party movement can only hurt. Criticism is fine, but to go beyond can only set back the progressive movement attempts to connect with the working class. As much as those of us on the left really want to believe, that working class folks are not part of the Tea Party, that is not true.

    We have to reach out to those displaced workers and call for, no demand, a progressive government for all those in the working class. Ideology over partisan politics always.

    Posted by detectivetom, 04/24/2010 12:30am (5 years ago)

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