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The Reason for Noam Chomsky's Surprising Criticism of Hugo Chavez, and why I give him Two Cheers.

Navasky’s reaction is the kind one has come to expect from Noam Chomsky. For those who want to read about Chomsky’s many crimes against reason, I recommend the Encounter Books volume The Anti Chomsky Reader (edited by Peter Collier and David Horowitz), which presents critical assessments of Chomsky’s take on almost everything political he has written about.

In the 1980s, when I and others were writing critically about the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua, Chomsky wrote in one book that CIA scholars, as he called them -- singling out myself and Robert Leiken -- were doing the job of the agency by producing justifications for U.S. intervention to overthrow the Nicaraguan Marxists. He is, one must say, the last person one would expect to suddenly lash out at Hugo Chavez, whose regime he backs.

So why did he do this? I think I have an answer, and it comes from something he told me many decades ago, when I spoke with him in Wellfleet, Mass., when I was vacationing in the Cape Cod town. Chomsky, who at times has called himself a libertarian socialist or a Marxist anarchist, told me that he would not travel to Vietnam, despite many invitations, since he knew he would not like the Stalinist regime, and would be compelled to criticize it. Publicly he defended the North Vietnamese Communists and the Viet-Cong because they were under attack from American imperialism, he told me, and he was honor bound to solidify support for the anti-war movement in the United States and the Vietnamese Communists and their government. He would not have been able to carry out that task, he said, had he accepted any of their invitations. But by not personally going to the country, he could avoid criticizing it.

In his interview with the Guardian, he notes that he has made a judgement that the Chavez regime is not under external attack from the United States -- and hence he is free to criticize its policies. For Chomsky, this is a major step forward. Until this time, if you care to go through his voluminous writing, he generally calls critics of totalitarian left-wing regimes apologists for the United States. He would never beforehand concede that these regimes were not under severe danger from the United States. By saying that they are not, he has undercut the argument Chavez’s defenders always make about why they must be supported.

In taking this stand, Chomsky has unwittingly exposed the corruption of the pro-Chavez group in the American Left, in particular, Oliver Stone, whose film two years ago was a paean to the regime and an apologia for its misdeeds. He has in effect laid down the gauntlet for others on the  Left to follow his example. And, in fact, one can hope that he would not stop at Chavez, and would extend his critique to the Castro brothers and their prison regime in Cuba.

So, reluctantly, I salute Noam Chomsky, and on this 4th of July, I give him two cheers for a step towards common sense.

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