Lingering Questions for Noam Chomsky on Venezuela

August 9, 2011

Tags: Noam Chomsky, Hugo Chavez, Guardian newspaper, Eva Golinger, Aporrea, El Libertario, left controversies

A three part series. To read part 1, click here. For part 2, click here. For part 3, click here.


  1. November 25, 2011 5:31 AM EST

    "La reciente visita de Chomsky a Venezuela y sus declaraciones sobre los procesos de izquierda en Latinoamérica y sobre Venezuela en particular, motivaron una dura y desafortunada crítica en la revista venezolana El Libertario, escrito por el veterano anarquista español Octavio Alberola, titulado “Chomsky, bufón de Chávez” ... No podemos ver qué clase de beneficio puede aportar al movimiento libertario esta clase de diatribas, las cuales logran ahuyentar apersonas que de otra manera serían atraídas por nuestra propaganda. Estas actitudes han hecho que el anarquismo sea, en muchos casos, nada más que un pequeño grupúsculo de fanáticos que han convertido en virtud nuestro principal defecto, el dogmatismo, y que piensan que quien ataca más violentamente a quien no piensa como uno, quien es el más sectario, es el más “anarquista”."
    - Ed
  2. November 25, 2011 9:00 AM EST
    Ed (as in Ed Herman?):

    I saw this posting and the last one you sent. I think these responses miss the point of the article. Please re-read the piece: you don't have to be a neo-con on the right to criticize Hugo Chavez once in a while, just be a flexatarian and able to look at things with an analytical eye.

    - Nikolas Kozloff
  3. February 4, 2012 5:38 AM EST
    Certainly not Ed Herman!

    I think you miss the point of my comment - fine to criticise Chavez when it's based on the facts, but to chide Chomsky by referring to 'El Libertario' is a completely different matter, their line on Venezuelan politics is usually hysterical and deeply mendacious (hence the very sensible critique of that group in the link I posted by a Latin American anarchist who is no Chavista).

    Chomsky was absolutely right to protest at the way his views were misrepresented by the Guardian's Rory Carroll - one of the laziest and most prejudiced of all western journalists to have set up shop in Caracas. Chomsky has been wrong on some international issues, but on Venezuela, he has struck exactly the right note of cautious sympathy and cautious solidarity
    - Ed
  4. February 4, 2012 8:37 AM EST
    Well, if you're going to make an incendiary and critical charge, say why and where El Libertario is usually hysterical and deeply mendacious --- don't just quote your Latin American friends.

    As for Chomsky, I think I was rather charitable in the article. From about 2006 onwards, Chavez has been spiraling down in certain respects [for a thorough dissecting of Chavez's missteps, go back in this blog to that year and then move forward in time]. Yet oddly, Chomsky waited until just recently to launch criticisms, and met with Chavez as late as 2009.

    In addition, Chomsky shares the flawed world view of the Stalinist left, so common in such venues as Counterpunch and Verso books, that one cannot criticize other left leaning countries from the North.
    - Nikolas Kozloff
  5. February 8, 2012 8:51 AM EST
    Fine, dismiss other viewpoints if you like - when I link to a very useful critique of El Libertario's attack on Chomsky, written by a Latin American anarchist who holds no brief for Chavez, you just dismiss it as 'quoting your Latin American friends', without making any attempt to address its arguments. I suppose if I posted up more, you'd dismiss it in the same off-hand way. Let's just say two can play at that game - since your original article drew so heavily on El Libertario, following your logic it can be dismissed as 'quoting your Latin American friends'.

    Your reference to the 'world view of the Stalinist left' is just innuendo, consistent with your approach in the HP article.

    "One wonders what Chomsky is so upset about. What is so relevant about Bradley Manning, and why can't Chomsky bear to mention Venezuela on its own terms without bringing the United States into the picture? Apparently, there is something in Chomsky's DNA that prevents him from discussing Latin America outside the context of U.S. imperialism. Thus, everything that transpires politically in the region must be compared with Washington's actions."

    Really, does one wonder about all this? Does one wonder at the fact that when Chomsky is being interviewed by two newspapers published in New York and London, he is not willing to simply criticise one of the approved, official enemies of the US, without also mentioning the fact that the US government has been responsible for an abuse of human rights much greater than the one he has raised in Venezuela? If Chomsky was being interviewed by a Venezuelan or Bolivian newspaper it would be a different matter.

    There's a very basic principle involved: oppose the crimes of your own side, your own government, your own ruling class, first and foremost. That doesn't mean you ignore or excuse the crimes of the other side; it DOES mean that you never let an opportunity pass to disturb the complacency and self-regard of establishment opinion in your own country. If you think this is 'Stalinism', you obviously know very little about what the real Stalinist left was like.
    - Ed
  6. February 9, 2012 4:07 PM EST

    I feel like we are getting into an esoteric side debate about El Libertario and the Pierre Besnard Foundation.

    Here is the main point: Chomsky was right to criticize Chavez for overreaching. The question is, when was it historically appropriate to do so?

    In my view, there were plenty of warning signs going back to 2006. I have written plenty about Chavez's missteps in this regard as you may see from going back into my archive. Chomsky on the other hand was silent up until very recently. Moreover, intellectual responsibility behooves Chomsky to speak up more often when Chavez drags the left through the mud.

    But Chomsky evades such a responsibility by saying that northerners shouldn't express any opinions. I'm sorry, but frankly I just find that to be a dodge. Moreover, if Chomsky has been more forthright about Venezuela in Venezuelan or Bolivian newspapers, I am not aware of this.

    Indeed, I scoured the chomsky web site and the don of the left has been totally silent about Chavez's foreign policy pitfalls (most recently, the Venezuelan leader has even been on the wrong side on Syria no less, and before the Arab Spring Chavez had amicable relations with Qaddafi).

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe you yourself said that the author of the piece you cited was a friend. I have had some personal contact with El Libertario, and I'm sympathetic to their views but tend to approach Venezuelan politics with a skeptical eye in many respects.

    I read the piece you cited. It argues that El Libertario has the wrong perspective on Chomsky, but as far as I can see it does not prove that the paper is "mendacious." If you think El Libertario is just plain factually wrong about something, then speak up.

    As for hysterical, that is certainly open to question. There are plenty of hyperbolic commentaries on all sides of the political spectrum in Venezuela.

    - Anonymous