No 341 Posted by fw, November 17, 2011
In Part 8 of this 11-part series, the focus was on America’s interventionist international policies that primarily served corporate interests. In Part 9, Ferguson and Chomsky advance the argument that, in America, “true” democracy poses a threat to the corporate system of domination and control. America could learn something about “true” democracy from Haiti and Bolivia.
Continuing with the format for this series, a complete 77-minute video of Shockley’s documentary film is embedded below followed by my time-indexed transcript comprising Part 4, including subheadings, and any external links and text highlighting. The time indexing facilitates switching from the text to its related place in the video. Of course, readers have the option of watching the complete 77-minute video at one sitting.
51:41 <On-Screen text> — Government: Collective protector of elite profit
Tom Ferguson – There’s no question. These are all businesses. They share pretty fully in the sort of conviction that private property ought to be pretty absolute. You can see that even in some of the responses to the health care debates. President Obama was talking at the business council and he was asked by one of the large firm heads there about medical care. That’s a relatively capital-intensive form . . . And this guy was clearly railing on at the prospect of the one serious reform that would actually give you universal health care, which is <editor’s cut>. You got to have a government-sponsored program that people can enter in competition with the existing private ones. That’s the way you get some serious cost containment. Everybody knows that. That’s why much of the health care debate that’s about to happen is going to focus on . . .
52:38 Noam Chomsky – Markets just don’t provide options which today are crucial options. So for example, the market system permits you to decide whether to buy one brand of car or another. But the market doesn’t permit you to decide I don’t want a car, I want a public transportation system. And the same is true of a wide range of other matters of social significance like whether to help the disabled widow across town. That’s what social — that’s what communities decide. That’s what democracy’s about. That’s what social solidarity is about, mutual aid and building institutions by people for the benefit of people. And all of that threatens the system of domination and control right at its heart.
53:33 Noam Chomsky – This year, in 2008, something changed. For the first time the Democrats began putting forward programs which are towards what the population has wanted for decades, at least they’re in that direction. First [John] Edwards and then Obama and [Hillary] Clinton.
53:54 Barack Obama – I don’t believe that government can or should run health care. But I also don’t think insurance companies should have free rein to do as they please. That’s why any plan I sign must include an insurance exchange. A one-stop shopping marketplace where you can compare the benefits, costs and track records of a variety of plans, including a public option to increase competition and keep insurance companies honest.
54:20 <On-Screen news headline> — Obama backs away from public health insurance plan, by Philip Elliott, Associated Press Writer, August 17, 2009.
54:28 Noam Chomsky – But what happened between 2004 and 2008? Public opinion didn’t change. It’s been pretty much the same for decades. What changed is that the manufacturing industry started coming out in favor of a national health care system because they’re being smashed by the costs of the privatized system in the United States. General Motors says it costs them over $1,000 more to produce a car in Detroit than across the Canadian border, because they have a rational health care system – more rational, not perfect but better. When a sector of concentrated American capital becomes interested in something it starts to become politically possible, and have political support. These are things that people ought to be discussing and think about. What does that tell you about our functioning democracy?
55:25 <On-Screen text> — A few third world elections
Noam Chomsky – Let’s take, say, the poorest countries in the western hemisphere – Haiti and Bolivia. In Haiti there was an election in 1990 which really was an extraordinary display of democracy. There were grassroots movements, popular movement that developed in the slums and in the hills, which nobody was paying any attention to, and they managed even without any resources to sweep into power their own candidate, a populist priest, Jean Bertrand Aristide. Take the second poorest country, Bolivia. They had an election in 2005 that’s almost unimaginable in the West, certainly here, anywhere. The person elected into office was indigenous. That’s the most oppressed population in the hemisphere, that is, those who survived. He’s a poor peasant. How did he get in? Well, he got in because there were, again, mass popular movements which elected their own representative. And they are the source of the programs, which are serious ones. They’re real issues and people know them – control over resources, cultural rights, social justice and so on. Furthermore, the election was just an event that was a particular stage in a long continuing struggle, a lot before and a lot after. A couple of years ago there was a major struggle over privatization of water, an effort which would, in effect, deprive a good part of the population of water to drink. It was a bitter struggle. A lot of people were killed, but they won it through international solidarity in fact, which helped.
[My comment: Does any of this sound familiar in the light of the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street?]
57:23 <On-screen text> — But doesn’t that lead to authoritarian “socialism” or even Soviet “Communism”?
57:36 Noam Chomsky – What is communism? Is Chile a communist country? Its economy is based on a nationalized copper industry. Copper’s their main export. It happens to be a very efficient, nationalized company, Codelco, which is the core of Chilean economy. We call Chile the model of a free market. Again, its main export industry is nationalized. Land reform, we’re supposed to be in favor of that; [it] aligns with progress and so on. We just don’t like it when somebody else is doing it in a way which leads to successful reliance and taking matters into your own hands.
But what does it mean to call it a communist country? Did they have land reform in Russia? Those are just curse words. They don’t mean anything. If you don’t like it, it’s communism. And if we do like it, it’s democracy. Could be the same thing. What’s the United States? Does the United States have a market economy? I mean, do you use a computer? Do you use the Internet? Do you use telecommunications? Do you buy things at WalMart which come in container ships? All of that comes out of the state sector. <unintelligible> All that stuff’s developed right here. Public funding – the public takes the costs and the risks. It’s developed in the state sector. Often in the state sector for decades. Computers and the Internet were in the states, basically, publicly funded, just like an IP, for almost three decades before they were handed over to private corporations. What’s that? Is it Communist? Pick whatever word you want.
59:13 Noam Chomsky – On the core notion of at least traditional socialism is that working people have to be in control of production and communities have to be in control of their own lives, and so on. The Soviet Union was the exact opposite of that. The working people had no control over anything. They were virtual slaves. I mean the Soviet Union was called a socialist society, and it was called that by the two major propaganda operations in the world – the U.S., the Western one, and the Soviet one. They both called it socialism for opposite reasons. The West called it socialism in order to defame socialism by associating it with this miserable tyranny. The Soviet Union called it socialism in order to gain whatever, to benefit from the moral appeal that true socialism had among the large parts of the general world population.
1:00:12 Noam Chomsky – Just like when an American politician goes somewhere and his pollsters tell him so-and-so and he says it.