BARSAMIAN: [About 3 minutes before end of their alloted interview time:] You said the economic system is a grotesque catastrophe. What kind of economic system would you propose?

CHOMSKY: Well, that's a topic for another discussion because we're being kicked out of here, but I would propose a system which is democratic. Meaning that, it's long been understood -- in fact it's been a cliche, it has nothing to do with the left in fact, it's right through the American working class movement, you know, social thinkers, everybody, forever -- that you don't have democracy unless people are in control of the major decisions. And the major decisions, as has been long understood, are investment decisions, fundamentally investment decisions, what you do with the money, what happens in the country, what's produced, how is it produced, what are working conditions like, where does it go, how is it distributed, where is it sold. I mean, that whole range of decisions, that's not everything in the world, but unless that range of decisions is under democratic control, [what] you have is one or another form of tyranny.

That's as old as the hills and it's as American as apple pie, you don't have to go to Marxism or anything else, it's just straight out of mainstream American tradition. And the reason is perfect common sense. You think for three seconds: yeah, obvious. So, that's got to be at the core of it and that means a total dismantling of all the totalitarian systems. Corporations are just as totalitarian as Bolshevism and fascism, in fact they came out of the same intellectual roots in the early 20th century. So, just like other forms of totalitarianism have to go, private tyrannies have to go and they have to be put under public control -- and then you look at the modalities of public control. Like, should it be workers' councils or community organization or some integration of them, and what kind of federal structure should there be.

At this point, you're sort of beginning to think about how a free and democratic society might operate, and that's worth a lot of thought, but we're a long way from that. The first thing you've got to do in any kind of change is to recognize the forms of oppression that exist. I mean, if slaves don't recognize that slavery is oppression, it doesn't make much sense to ask them: "how are you going to live in a free society?" They think they do. And this is not a joke. Take say, women. Overwhelmingly and for a long time, they may have sensed oppression, but they didn't see it as oppression, they saw it as "life". The fact that you don't see oppression doesn't mean that you don't know it at some level. I mean, at some level, you know it. And the way in which you know it can take very harmful forms, to yourself and everyone else. That's true of every system of oppression. But unless you sense it, identify it, understand it, understand furthermore that it's not as in that article, "the genius of the market and a mystery," but perfectly understandable and not any genius of anything, and easily put under popular control.

Unless all those things are understood you cannot proceed to the next step, which is the one you raised: how can we change this system? [Well], you can figure out how to change the system by reading the newspapers that were produced by twenty year old young women in Lowell, Massachusetts 150 years ago who came off the farms and were working in the factories and running newspapers. They knew how to change the system, we know too. They wanted to, they were strongly opposed to what they called "the new spirit of the age: gain wealth forgetting all but self," and wanted to retain the high culture that they already had, the solidarity, the sympathy, the control. They didn't want to be slaves, they thought that the Civil War was fought to end slavery not to institute it. All of these things were perfectly common perceptions, perfectly correct, and you can turn them into ways in which a much more free society can function.

With thanks to original UseNet post by:

From: Mark R (
Subject: Repost: Chomsky on goals and visions (was Re: Chomsky:
Anarchism as Mind-set?
Date: 1996/05/25
And with thanks to David Barsamian and Alternative Radio