Noam Chomsky to frustrated Marxists: Vote for Biden

Noam Chomsky to frustrated Marxists: Vote for Biden

One of the guys from Chapo Trap House, Virgil, co-hosts a podcast with Bernie Sanders’ former press secretary Briahna Joy. Today they published their latest interview with Noam Chomsky and it’s a good reminder of where the left is these days.

Chomsky’s position in this debate is that Trump must not be allowed to win the 2020 election because that would lead to the end of civilization and also the destruction of the world from runaway climate change. And because he sees the situation as that stark he is encouraging people to vote for Joe Biden, a moderate who many on the far left see as little different from a Republican.

The alternative view presented by the co-hosts is that it makes no sense to support Biden when the real threat to the earth and the driver of climate change is capitalism. And so we get this lovely discussion in which both sides want to see the end of capitalism but they disagree over how quickly they can achieve that goal.

Virgil: If these capitalist institutions result in recurring ecological crises and existential ones, as they do, then isn’t the real fight against those institutions instead of a reform that maybe gets us over the hump in 30 years if it were possible to lobby those in power through activism, some kind of brokering, those who are beholden to the profit motive even if it destroys the environment?

Chomsky: We have maybe a decade or two to deal with the environmental crisis. Is there the remotest chance that within a decade or two we’ll overthrow capitalism? It’s not even a dream, okay? So the point that you’re raising is basically irrelevant. Of course let’s try to overthrow capitalism. It’s not going to happen like that. There’s a lot of work involved. Meanwhile we have an imminent question. Are we going to preserve the possibility for organized human society to survive? Are we going to preserve the possibility for us to overthrow capitalist institutions?

Here’s the exchange:

So the argument here is whether the left should try to work through the existing system by doing things like voting for the best available candidate who can win while continuing to attack capitalism (Chomsky’s view) or declare war on the capitalist system itself to try to move things along a bit faster (Virgil’s view).

Here’s a bit more of the same argument between Chomsky and co-host Briahna Joy. Chomsky is arguing that existential questions should take precedence over other issues. Joy seems to be arguing that if the world ends she’ll want it noted for the record that the homeless were hardest hit.

There’s one more clip and it’s pretty much the same argument:

Chomsky is right about one thing. Capitalism isn’t going away, not in 10 years, not in 30. So good luck with all of that.

What can happen, unfortunately, is you get enough snake oil salesman pushing this nonsense that eventually these people are given real power or get in a position to seize it. And that’s when regular people learn the hard way that you can’t feed people on talking points and propaganda. We’ve seen this fail disastrously in the 20th century with a death toll in the tens of millions. Nothing has changed. Maxism won’t work any better the next time it’s tried. We need to push back against this kind of extremism.

In closing, even some on the left are put off by this. If you want to move the country to the left, having these podcasters at the forefront is just bad PR.

Vox’s Matt Yglesias is also skeptical though he doesn’t seem to be getting through:

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