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November 2006, Volume 58, Number 7

November 2006, Volume 58, Number 7
» Notes from the Editors

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez’s extraordinary speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations in September drew worldwide media attention not simply because he referred to the current occupant of the White House as “the devil” for his nefarious actions as the leader of world imperialism, but also because of his scarcely less heretical praise of MR and MR Press author Noam Chomsky for his book Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance. As the foremost dissident intellectual in the United States, Chomsky is generally ostracized by the dominant U.S. media system, treated as a ghost-like or even non-existent figure. The establishment was thus caught off guard when Chávez’s comments suddenly catapulted Hegemony or Survival into the bestseller list, along with another recent Chomsky book, Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda. The speed with which orders for Chomsky’s books piled up in bookstores and Internet distributors across the nation demonstrated beyond any doubt that people are hungry for serious radical critiques of U.S. imperialism but seldom know where to look—since all such dissident views are deemed off limits by the ruling media-propaganda system.

Chávez’s speech received thunderous applause from the assembled UN diplomats, which contrasted sharply with the lukewarm, altogether grudging reception given to the U.S. president in the same chamber only the day before. Nevertheless, the substantive content of Chávez’s speech was largely ignored in the global corporate media frenzy over the impropriety of his remarks coupled with the sheer shock occasioned by his “bearding the devil in his own lair.” Since we regard the central message of that speech to be of the first importance, we quote from it at length:

Yesterday, ladies and gentleman, from this rostrum, the president of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as the devil, came here, talking as if he owned the world. Truly. As the owner of the world….As the spokesman of imperialism, he came to share his nostrums, to try to preserve the current pattern of domination, exploitation and pillage of the peoples of the world….As Chomsky says here [in Hegemony and Survival] clearly and in depth, the American empire is doing all it can to consolidate its system of domination….They [the U.S. rulers] say that they want to impose a democratic model. But…their democratic model….[is] the false democracy of elites….What type of democracy do you impose with marines and bombs?…The imperialists see extremists everywhere. It’s not that we are the extremists. It’s that the world is waking up….I have some inkling of what the people of the South, the oppressed people, think. They would say, “Yankee imperialist, go home,”…if they could speak with one voice to American imperialists….We want ideas…to save the planet from the imperialist threat. And hopefully in this very century, in not too long a time, we will see this, we will see this new era, and for our children and our grandchildren a world of peace based on the fundamental principles of the United Nations, but a renewed United Nations. (http://www.globalresearch.ca)

Those looking for more information on Chávez could not do better than to turn to Understanding the Venezuelan Revolution: Hugo Chávez Talks to Marta Harnecker (Monthly Review Press, 2005). Chomsky’s critique of U.S. imperialism and the war in Iraq is presented in concise form in his piece “Imperial Ambitions” in John Bellamy Foster and Robert W. McChesney, ed., Pox Americana (Monthly Review Press, 2004).

We are very pleased to note that MR author Adrienne Rich (see “Credo of a Passionate Skeptic” in the June 2001 MR and her poetry in the April 2003 and November 2004 issues) has been honored with the 2006 National Book Award Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Earlier she won the 2004 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry for her School Among the Ruins. The National Book Award ceremony will be held November 15, 2006, in New York.

MR author Frances Fox Piven (see her article with Richard Cloward, “Eras of Power” in the January 1998 issue of MR) has just begun a one-year term of office, August 2006–August 2007, as president of the American Sociological Association (ASA). (MR editor John Bellamy Foster is serving as chair of the Marxist section of the ASA over the same period.) She will preside over the ASA in August 11–14, 2007, when it will be meeting in New York for its annual conference. Departing from the often staid and conformist leanings of this academic organization, Frances has courageously chosen as the theme of the annual conference “Another World is Possible”—the slogan of the World Social Forum. She has written a statement, explaining this theme, which is posted in full on the ASA’s Web site, and which includes the following:

In the United States, inequalities of income and wealth are increasing while our electoral system is degraded by money corruption, spectacle and propaganda. The numbers of poor are growing and their poverty deepening, while the public programs that once mitigated economic hardship are shrinking. What happens within the U.S. is of consequence to Americans and the world. Pollution and environmental destruction from unregulated production are escalating to the point where global warming may be irreversible. In Iraq, a continuing war tightly inter-braided with U.S. domestic politics brings more dead and wounded Americans, many more uncounted dead and wounded Iraqis, and threatens widening instability in the Middle East. The U.S. is alleged to be the most powerful nation in world history; its military and economic footprints determine the life chances of people everywhere. Tragically, that great power can and does produce policies that violate axiomatic sociological knowledge about social cohesion and stability.

Our congratulations to Noam, Adrienne, Frances, and most especially compañero Hugo Chávez!

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