Tuesday, 16 November 2010

My Email Exchange with Noam Chomsky.

A few days after the massive student demonstration against cuts and tuition fees I emailed Noam Chomsky, who has been involved in activism and civil disobedience for almost 50 years, to see what he thought to the protests in London. But also other issues such as the European approach to deficit reduction and the "special relationship" between Britain and America. Have a read and please comment.

JW: There was a mass-demonstration in London yesterday organised by the National Union of Students and others in response to the cuts to public education and tuition fee hikes by the Con-Dem Coalition. Turn-out is said to have been 52,000 or maybe more, which is a considerable turn-out given that the Coalition has only been in power since May. The media gave the demonstrations some coverage but it was only when students smashed windows at Millbank Towers and broke into the Conservative Party HQ that the press really began to "focus" on the story. The media covered the story as if there had been a terrorist attack on Millbank Towers and hundreds of Conservatives had been killed, when in actuality only 14 people were injured - 7 police officers and 7 students. Do you think the students undermined the cause by resorting to, what the press calls, violence?

Many European countries, including Britain, are implementing "austerity measures" that could amount to the end of the welfare state and social democracy. It is often emphasised by commentators that these "austerity measures" are not being followed in the United States. In the UK the Coalition has "ring-fenced" defence spending and it has been suggested that is because the US government is opposed to cuts to defence budgets in Britain. This may also explain why the Liberals in the government have gone back on their campaign promises to scrap the Trident missile system, in Britain we call this the "special relationship" without irony. What do you think of the "special relationship" between Britain and America?

NC: I noticed that an international anarchist federation, which strongly supported the protest, condemned the resort to force and suggested it might have been provocateurs.  If so, it wouldn’t have been the first time.  At best, it’s a tactical error, in my opinion, achieving nothing positive and offering the media the opportunity to suppress the issues and concentrate on injuring people.  That’s an old story.

The austerity measures in the UK are, I believe, class war.  Even conservative economists recognize that England’s deficit is not large by historical standards.  I think the UK and the EU generally are making a serious mistake – or more cynically, a class-based policy -- by focusing on austerity rather than stimulating the economy in which case the deficit, such as it is, will be taken care of naturally down the road.  I’m not usually a cheer-leader for Obama, but his position on this issue at G-20 was better than that of Europe, though he didn’t go anywhere near far enough.  Obama picked a deficit commission headed by two right-wing deficit hawks, who just released a report that has pretty much the Cameron-style class war character.  It’s not as bad as the UK – yet.  As for the “special relationship,” that was defined by a high-level JFK adviser at the peak of the missile crisis in 1962, when US planners were taking actions that they knew might incinerate England while leaving the US untouched, and were refusing even to inform the British government.  The “special relationship” means that “Britain is our lieutenant, the fashionable word is `partner’.” The British prefer to hear the fashionable word.

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