On July 29, 2010, Vaughn Cartwright and Emmanuel Tellez interviewed Noam Chomsky, prolific author and activist, on behalf of the Platypus Review, to discuss the history of the Left and the state of radical politics today. What follows is an edited transcript of the interview.
IN WALTER BENJAMIN’S MAGNUM OPUS, The Arcades Project, capitalist modernity is in several instances depicted as a “hellish” existence. He describes this condition as history continuing to truck along in its course, but only doing so regressively. Hell, in short, is “transiency without progress.” Here, Benjamin is not voicing a Romantic sensibility; he does not bemoan modernity for having trampled over the once “harmonious” and organic way of life supposedly experienced in premodern times.
WHAT WERE THE 1960S? The Left is still a bit confused. Activist and lawyer Osha Neumann, in his memoir Up Against the Wall, Motherf**ker, suggests that the 1960s not be thought of as a single coherent movement, but rather as a collection of movements gathered under the umbrella of “liberation.” The civil rights movement overlapped with the anti-war movement, but they were not fully aligned. Similarly, the politically earnest Students for a Democratic Society often came head-to-head with the counterculture and the seemingly more radical tactics of Neumann’s own group, the Motherfuckers.
This text was written collaboratively and originally published by the anti-Deutsch group, Initiative Sozialistisches Forum (Socialist Initiative Forum) as "Der Kommunismus und Israel" in the collection Furchtbare Antisemiten, ehrbare Antizionisten. Über Israel und die linksdeutsche Ideologie, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, 2002. Translated and reprinted with permission of the authors.