Thursday, March 10, 2005

Last word on the 'classics'

So, to try to sum up the case on Chomsky's classics, remembering that this all started with Christopher Hitchens' remark in an interview.

First, it is quite possible that as we grow older we become more conservative, yet reluctant to abandon positions once held passionately. 

Then, I think the tone was different in Chomsky's earlier works. True, the strained irony has always been there, but the distortions were less blatant, though Kamm does give a good example in the Samuel Huntingdon affair. There is more of a struggle over what action should be taken (which Kamm may see as 'feeble equivocation'), for example in 'On Resistance'.

Thirdly, the objective circumstances have changed between 1968 and 2003. The elections in Vietnam (mentioned here), were a farce according to Chomsky, again if he is to be believed, with the Vietcong and other opposition groups excluded. Now, the US and the Iraqi majority are keen, begging even, for the Sunnis to to take part in the political process, rather than continue the insurgency. The objective circumstances may have changed, but the rhetoric of Chomsky (and Pilger and so on) remains the same.

Christopher Hitchens used to belong to a group that later became the SWP. According to Oliver Kamm here, the Stop the War Coalition 'is in fact a front organisation for the Socialist Workers’ Party.' As I said before, the process was very sad. The norm became knee-jerk reactions and exaggerated rhetoric, rather than reasoned analysis. To illustrate the point, from Jim Higgins' book again (see here), an example from the 1950s and an even earlier forerunner of the SWP:

during the German rearmament debate, it was necessary to deter SR Group members from seconding resolutions with such preambles as:  "The Germans who have already started two world wars ...".


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