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Libertarian SDS Reportback
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, September 23 2007 @ 09:32 AM CDT
ChuckO, do try to read what I said a little more carefully. My concern here isn't whether or not Chomsky is an anarchist (he isn't), but whether or not he identifies himself occasionally as a "left libertarian" (he doesn't).

The fact that the author of this piece claims to speak for the "libertarian left" is strongly suggestive of sympathies for the anarcho-capitalist position or one of its variants. HP, as usual, prefers to theorize in a vacuum, without paying any attention to the evidence that is widely available (even here on Infoshop) as to just what the "left libertarian" ideology actually means in contemporary North America, and what it has meant for some time. Samuel Konklin's Movement of the Libertarian Left, for example, was started decades ago.

Now, when someone with those sympathies posts anything on an anarchist web site, it must be interpreted in the larger context of their total belief system; one cannot simply take their leftist and class-struggle rhetoric at face value.
Libertarian SDS Reportback
Authored by: HPWombat on Sunday, September 23 2007 @ 10:37 AM CDT
Makhno, Chomsky's thought belongs within the libertarian left. He has been published with other "libertarians", both "right" and "left". While he doesn't share the economism of the left-libertarian tendency, he does get categorized by the left and the right, statist and libertarian, as "left libertarian", making left libertarian more than a tendency, which is where I'm contesting your interpretation.

To be fair, Chomsky is in the IWW (a comrade to anarchist wobblies) and has identified as an anarchist. He doesn't completely translate his libertarian socialism into liberalism, claiming the same ascendants from classic anarchism as democratic socialists like Zinn. I think it is important that Chomsky be treated as a part of the anarchist movement because what he says has real impact on the anarchist movement. In the same vein of thought, Chomsky and those anarchists that find his positions agreeable should be challenged for this same impact. Small college town anarchy is Chomsky's anarchy and we are running against the wind if we just dismiss Chomsky offhand.

To tie this back in to the article, the author doesn't expose his own particulars other than vague references to workers and libertarian organizations. While at first I was making an example of Chomsky for his watered down views and their impact on new anarchists, I also am using him as a foil for this "left libertarian" category (rather than tendency) to speculate on the author's lack of anarchist credentials, which the author may or may not have. Outside of this, the author presents a good critique of possible problems that SDS has with coherent theory and practice. I hope that SDS people read this article and attempt to overcome its criticisms.

Libertarian SDS Reportback
Authored by: HPWombat on Sunday, September 23 2007 @ 11:57 PM CDT
Found it! Chomsky does identify as "libertarian left" as well as anarchists as a part of it.


Now, presumably people who talk about anarchy or anarchism as a system of political philosophy don't just mean that, as it were, as of January 1st next year, government as we now understand it will suddenly cease; there would be no police, no rules of the road, no laws, no tax collectors, no post office, and so forth. Presumably, it means something more complicated than that.

CHOMSKY: Well, yes to some of those questions, no to others. They may very well mean no policemen, but I don't think they would mean no rules of the road. In fact, I should say to begin with that the term anarchism is used to cover quite a range of political ideas, but I would prefer to think of it as the libertarian left, and from that point of view anarchism can be conceived as a kind of voluntary socialism, that is, as libertarian socialist or anarcho-syndicalist or communist anarchist, in the tradition of, say, Bakunin and Kropotkin and others. They had in mind a highly organized form of society, but a society that was organized on the basis of organic units, organic communities. And generally, they meant by that the workplace and the neighborhood, and from those two basic units there could derive through federal arrangements a highly integrated kind of social organization which might be national or even international in scope. And these decisions could be made over a substantial range, but by delegates who are always part of the organic community from which they come, to which they return, and in which, in fact, they live.


Libertarian SDS Reportback
Authored by: Admin on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 01:53 AM CDT
I think one of the more pertinent questions about Chomsky is why he doesn't identify publicly as an anarchist more often. Then again, how much should we really expect some prominent anarchist to throw the label around? Chomsky has said that he identifies with the more "classic" strain of anarchism. My take is that Chomsky just personally like to pigeonhole his political beliefs into one label.

One thing that has struck me in going through my archive of anarchist literature is how much Chomsky has contributed to anarchist publications over the years. Not just reprints, but in original articles for anarchist publications, interviews, and exchanges of letters.

Chomsky has also donated quite a bit to anarchist groups and done public appearances to benefit anarchists.

Libertarian SDS Reportback
Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 09:05 AM CDT
Congratulations, HP, you finally managed to find one reference in Chomsky to a "libertarian left", although he clearly prefers the term "libertarian socialist". But the fact remains that in North America, both the terms "libertarian" and "left libertarian" have, over the last two or three decades, become commonly associated with the anarcho-capitalist, Libertarian Party types - a fact of which the author of this review must be aware, unless he has been living on Mars all his life. Therefore, his claim to speak for the "libertarian left" is a dead giveaway of his real political sympathies.
Libertarian SDS Reportback
Authored by: HPWombat on Monday, September 24 2007 @ 02:55 PM CDT
Well, I can continue to source doubts on "libertarian left". Chomsky is by far not the only one that identifies as libertarian left or left-libertarian (as a broad category, rather than tendency). Also I think it is mistaken to suspect this author as for any market system, especially with the use of "worker" which moves away from most "market anarchist" approaches, excluding pro-union market libertarians. If it is a pro-union market libertarian, he's advocating both a "libertarian" organization and a "worker" identity, putting his advocated practice more in line with a syndicalist approach than "left-libertarian".

Due to the vagueness of the author, I can only suspect that they were only attempting to present a general anti-authoritarian perspective, hiding behind the vague and broad category "libertarian left" as a challenge to the uncritical democracy of SDS. The author seems to be suggesting "libertarian" democracy, not a market approach, so even if the author were a market anarchist, this article is not suggesting it, unless "libertarian organization" is code jargon for "co-ops and alternative currency", which doesn't seem to be suggested either, as the author was presenting a position as a worker (i.e. SDS isn't working class enough), not as an owner nor an individual (which are hallmark points of jargon for the market and pseudo-market anarchists) nor appeals to the community (which would've revealed a possible mutualist slant). More likely, this is a Chomsky-loving, pro-organization syndicalist than a "left libertarian".

SDS people read infoshop.org but none have said anything about this reportback, it says some things that worry me. Open organizations can become very "democratic" and ignore points that all the libertarian left (now you can source me) need to participate in a democracy, which is a minimum of separations and full transparency and participation in decision-making for all individuals involved (as well as respect for the individual). As can be seen, democracy can easily take on aspects of centralization and elite privileges in decision-making, to say the least.

I think the author is mistaken for demanding a "worker" identity for the students. The author would be better suited attempting to combine his practice as a worker with SDS than complaining about a student organization being what it is. I don't hear anyone daring IWW because they don't have a student identity. The author essentializes this worker aspect as a quality that should define a libertarian group, rather than challenging them to practice their desires more rather than bogging themselves down with procedure and charters that suck the life out of any visionary project.