Chomsky on May 1968 or was that 1973?


[h/t Oliver Kamm]

Noam Chomsky recently penned a short article on the 1968 uprisings for the New Statesman. In this article, the events of 1968 are presented as the impetus for human rights, “an international global solidarity movement,” and even environmentalism. In short, the social movements that exist today are a direct result of the events of 1968. But, given that this is Chomsky, he focuses less on what he views as the positive developments of the moment than the nefarious political forces operating behind the scenes. In standard fashion, he focuses on the actions of the Trilateral Commission.

The main gist of the piece is something we’ve been reading from Chomsky for a long time. Unaccountable political and corporate elites were outraged by the urban riots of the late 1960s (in Chomsky’s parlance, “too much participation of the masses”) and so they bolstered the institutions of consensual domination “schools, churches” to keep us in our place, etc. etc. etc.

Never mind the fact that—as Kamm points out, and is easily found on the organization’s website—the Trilateral Commission was not formed until 1973. Never mind that it was American voters who wanted law and order in the face of the “participation” that Chomsky lauds. But what is the matter of inconvenient facts to intrude on Chomsky’s scholarly interpretation?

We also get a glimpse into the myopic mindset of the radical left and what they view as democracy. Faced with a failure of a mass anti-war movement to develop, Chomsky notes:

[W]ith the Iraq War, opposition was there from the very beginning, before an attack was even initiated. The Iraq War was the first conflict in western history in which an imperialist war was massively protested against before it had even been launched…In 1968, it was way out in the margins of society to even discuss the possibility of withdrawal from Vietnam. Now, every presidential candidate mentions withdrawal from Iraq as a real policy choice…There is also far greater opposition to oppression now than there was before [emphasis mine].

I see absolutely no proof of this. If there was, people like Chomsky and his ilk would be speaking out and writing more about the actual large-scale human rights violations taking place on this planet in places like Zimbabwe, Burma and Darfur. Sometimes I wonder if these people are simply delusional or if they are being manipulative. Maybe it’s a bit of both.


Hitchens, Hymowitz, Stern and others in the City Journal (Spring, Vol 18, No. 2).

Jean-Claude Guillebaud, “France’s Bright Shining Lie

Perhaps more than an ambiguity, it was an irony of history. The real legacy of May ’68, as we see in France today, is individualism, the rejection of civic sense and ideology, the rehabilitation of the idea that personal and financial success is a worthy pursuit — in short, a revival of capitalism. To borrow an expression of Lenin’s, we were useful idiots. Indeed, the uprising was more a counterrevolution than a revolution.

5 responses »

  1. “Chomsky’s parlance, ‘too much participation of the masses’ ”

    Pentagon’s parlance, “an excess of democracy”

  2. Thanks for visiting.

    Chomsky is talking about riots (excuse me, “urban rebellions”) in that sentence. Most thinking people do not consider riots a form of democratic participation, they consider them a form of mob rule.

    Your other comments were deleted by my SPAM filter. Must have mistaken you for a troll. Can’t imagine how it would make a mistake like that…

  3. Chomsky is like the AC/DC of the political left. He just keeps churning out the same thing over and over, knowing that someone out there will lap it up.

    I find that most of his output for the last 15 years has been substandard at best, and this piece doesn’t work to amend that assessment.

  4. The old 20th century Left v Right idealogical conflict is as obsolete as VHS v Betamax. It is now ‘Up v Down’ not ‘Left v Right’ – and we are pitifully unaware of it…but the Pentagon is not. It is in their interests to ‘flog this dead horse’ – it distracts and diverts us from the real ‘string-pullers’.

    Yes, Chomsky is like AC/DC – or Status Quo – but rock music (like Chomsky’s work) transcends such divisions.

    The music played by Chomsky speaks to humanity of any political persuasion – yes, it is repetitious – but so what !?

    Efforts to suppress the music and/or the musician will fail, because the music is bigger than the musician; and the music is powerful because of its great truths…and that’s why it’s seen as such a great threat by liars and killers in Washington and elsewhere.

  5. “Efforts to suppress the music and/or the musician will fail, because the music is bigger than the musician; and the music is powerful because of its great truths…and that’s why it’s seen as such a great threat by liars and killers in Washington and elsewhere.”

    Suppress it? You can buy the guys books in any bookstore in America. Even those evil corporate ones!

    And you must be reading some other Chomsky, because the one I have read is not about telling “great truths,” but lying through his teeth for his own ideological ends.

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