Barsamian: You were just in Argentina and met
with some activists from the Podemos movement in Spain. What were your
Chomsky: Well, this was an international
conference of activists from around the world, mostly South America but some
from Spain, some from Greece, Syriza and others. And it reflects some of the
positive developments in the world. One of the major positive developments internationally
in the past, for a long time,has been what has
taken place in South America over the past roughly fifteen years. South America
for five hundred years since the early conquests had been dominated by foreign
powers. The South American countries themselves were—the typical structure was that
a small Europeanized, mostly-white elite, extremely wealthy, in the sea of misery
and poverty. The elites were oriented towards the outside. They had their
second homes in Riviera, they sent their money to Zurich and so on. There were little
interactions among South American countries.
In the South American countries where the
most religious students of the neoliberal policies, structural adjustment policies
of the World Bank and the IMF and Treasure department, they were the ones who
suffered most naturally. But in the last ten or fifteen years they pulled out
of this for the first time. It’s a major change in world affairs. South America
used to be regarded here as what's called our backyard. They did whatever we
told them, we don't pay attention to them. Now, South America's out of control.
You take a look at the hemispherical conferences,
the United States is isolated. In fact, the primary reason why Obama made some
steps towards normalizing relations with Cuba is that the US was utterly
isolated on that issue in the whole hemisphere. They were trying to get some kind
of arrangements before the Summit of Americas which is coming up soon and they
didn’t quite make it. But that's the goal. This is a huge change. And that's
why the conference was in South America but there were participants from particularly
Podemas and Syriza. These are in Greece.
Europe has been subjected to a program of…a
kind of a savage economic program which has seriously undermined European
democracy. It has been devastating for the weaker, peripheral countries. It's
beginning to dismantle Europe's major post Second World War achievement. The
social democratic welfare state programs, I think that’s the purpose of the
policies, is economically destructive. These are the policies of austerity under
recession, even the International Monetary Fund's is crazy from an economic
point of view. But they make some sense from the point of view of class war. They
are enriching the big banks and they're dismantling social programs and so on.
Well, there's a reaction. The reaction was
from first in Greece, which has suffered most. And the German banks which are basically
responsible for these crises are reacting in an absolutely savage way to try to
prevent Greece from taking steps that might extricate itself from the disaster
that's been imposed. Greece is calling for restructuring of its debt, delaying debt
payments and so on.
This is particularly ironic because Germany
in 1953 was permitted by the European countries to cancel its major debts. That's
the basis for German recovery. That's why it's the dynamic center of Europe. Secondly,
Germany practically destroyed Greece during the Second World War. Well, put all
this together, Greece is now asking for a limited element of what Germany was
granted in 1953. And the powers in Germany, the bank of Bundesbank, is just flatly
refusing in a very savage way.
They may get away with Greece, because
Greece is a pretty weak country. Spain is going to be harder nut to crack. That's
a bigger country and a more powerful economy. In Spain, in the last couple of years,
two or three years, a new political party developed. Podemas, which, by now, is
running first in the polls. And it is also a party dedicated in a pretty
pragmatic sensible way to reversing the austerity programs, sustaining,
rebuilding the shadow economy, so-called welfare
state programs, and moving the country towards constructive development. In
Spain as well, the criminals, the ones who caused the crisis, were the banks. The
Spanish banks and the German banks. But they want the population to pay.
that none of them believe in capitalism. In a capitalist society, (to Barsamian) I lend money to you and since I know you, I know it’s a risky loan.(laughs)
Therefore, I get a lot of interests and make a lot of money out of it. If to a
certain point you can't pay, it's my problem in a capitalist society, but not in
a society in which we live. The problem is your problem and your neighbors’
problem. Your neighbors didn't take that debt that they got to pay for it. That's
the way our system works, radically anti-capitalist. It makes sense on class
warfare grounds but has no resemblance to markets or capitalism.
And that's what's been going on but there
is a struggle against it. And Podemos is worth keeping an eye on. They have
sensible programs. They might win the next election which is coming up soon. And
it's not going to be easy for the Brussels bureaucrats and the German banks, northern
banks, to crush Spanish initiatives.
Barsamian: One last question. You grew up
in the 30s at a time when solidarity meant something. There was mutual support.
There was an active labor movement. What is it going to take in 2015 to rekindle
that spirit of solidarity?
Chomsky: Well, remember what happened in the
30s. The labor movement was in fact in the forefront. There was CIO organizing,
sit-down strikes and so on. They had a sympathetic administration. So, the Roosevelt
administration was willing to accommodate to some extent to the pressures developing
among the public labor movement spearheading it, which did lead to the New Deal
legislations which were very beneficial to the population and to the economy. But
go back to the 1920s, the labor movement had been destroyed. There was practically
nothing left of it. One of the leading labor historians, David Montgomery, who
died recently, has a book “Fall of the House of Labor.” And it's about the 1920s
when there had been a lively vibrant active pretty radical American labor
movement. But it had been crushed by a brutal attack.
is a very much business-run society. And the business classes are highly class
conscious, constantly fighting class war, have state power supporting them. And
they were able to crush and destroyed the labor movement. But it revived. And it
can revive again. And other popular movements can as well too. And there is a
basis for it. (applause)
The basis for it is the quite positive
changes that have taken place since the 1960s. In many ways, it is a much more
civilized society than it was at that time, in many issues. And I think that is
a basis for recreating the kind of solidarity, mutual aid, working together, dedication
and commitment. That is very necessary today. We can’t overlook the fact that
we're in a moment of human history, which is entirely unique. For the first
time in human history, we're at a position where the decisions that we will
make will determine whether the species survives. That was not true in the past.
It is very definitely true now. These are not small questions.
Barsamian: It is quite a sobering note. And
as we bring this evening to a close, in Hindi there's a word called Sēvā. It
means service. And I can think of no one who has performed more sēvā, more service for humankind than you. Thank you