By Arnie Joahill
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Noam Chomsky
Issue 370

Occupy is a series of short interviews, statements and commentaries that portrays a glimpse of the breadth of the movement across America. It looks at the debates within Occupy and the short and long term demands of the movement.

One of the most interesting parts of this slim book (it is only 128 pages) is Chomsky’s documentation of the impact of neoliberalism on the US in the lead-up to Occupy exploding across the country. He considers soaring inequality between the poorest and the now infamous 1%, the destruction of public services and Washington’s support for massive political and financial corruption.

The vivid image of a police officer at the University of California pepper-spraying students in the face also supports Chomsky’s arguments about the wide-scale and increasing militarisation of the authorities within the past 30 years.

But when it comes to crucial questions – how do we fight and what are we fighting for – Chomsky’s response is lacking. He argues that by integrating and building the Occupy movement the “public” can mobilise for reforms. Such reforms cannot happen without building “public support”.

He then jumps into a somewhat bizarre discussion of launching an electoral opposition to the two main parties in the US. This not only seems unrealistic against the institutional framework of American politics which he has already outlined as corrupt and biased, but also places the solution for the 99% within the framework of capitalism. This is the major weakness in Chomsky’s analysis. He downplays the idea of future revolutions and minimises the impact and gains of international struggles, specifically the Egyptian Revolution.

He says that Americans face problems that are different to those in Egypt, arguing that the short-term goals of the Occupy movement are those of fiscal policy and financial regulation.

Most tellingly, Chomsky fails to even mention an alternative to the system he has so articulately torn apart. He loosely suggests that enterprises and factories that have been closed down could be taken over by those who worked there to produce the goods that people need. But his vision of this is not outlined in great detail.

Noam Chomsky’s Occupy is a good introduction for anyone looking to read more about the drastic changes within America in the past 30 years, but its strength lies in its analysis of the past, not in its vision for the future.

Occupy is published by Penguin, £5

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