Open Letter to Chomsky

20 05 2022

Since my response to Noam Chomsky elicited quite a flurry of feedback, both pro and con (and occasionally in between), I suspect readers will also be interested in the Open Letter to Noam Chomsky published yesterday by four Ukrainian academic economists.

The authors challenge Chomsky on several premises underlying his arguments concerning Ukraine and Russia. These include his denial of Ukraine’s sovereign territorial integrity (violated by Russia in contravention of several international agreements to which Russia was a signatory), his treatment of Ukraine as a pawn on a geo-political chessboard, the misplaced causality of his argumentation about NATO, and his utter incomprehension of the genocidal and frankly fascist motivations underlying Russia’s invasion. All of these premises are rooted in a selective anti-imperialism that, as I have argued , ignores the multiple forms imperialism can take in order to fight a single imperialism, equated with the U.S.-led West. The risk with such selectivity is that it chooses “strange bedfellows” (since it actually aligns with some fascistic anti-westerners like Dugin and now Putin).

As I argued in my E-Flux piece, the only kind of anti-imperialism that makes ethical and political sense today is a decolonial anti-imperialism, and “Decoloniality is by definition not just an anti-imperialism, but an anti-all-imperialisms. That makes every place in the world an ‘obligatory passage point’ for decolonialism.” Ukraine today is a site for decolonial, anti-imperialist struggle against a force whose cutting edge is the neo-imperial Putin regime, but whose fellow travelers are found around the world (especially, but not exclusively, on the political right).

Read the complete Open Letter here.


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6 responses

28 05 2022
filip

Despite the value of some considerations presented in the letter, it’s 100% clear that Ukraine could never fight Russia without the US help. Good to bear in mind that the US are interested just in weakening Russia and get a change of regime favourable to themselves,as it happened in all their history of war crimes.starting from the genoceìde of the still massively oppressed native americans (hopefully the sensitiveness to ethnical massacre and oppression of the professors signing this letter is not disappearing when someone else than russian is the perpetrator). Considering the enormous role of the US in this war a point of view like the one expressed by Chomsky is just precious. I don’t think he wants in any case to belittle the ukrainian spirit of independency but he’s warining about the nature of Us involvment, which is undeniable and almost always leads to disasters.

1 06 2022
Raymond Greenaway

I wonder what these `safe´New York Professors take was on Bush/Blair Iraq War. I assume they were out on the streets, refusing to pay taxes and demanding that Iran supply the poor and malnourished tactical missiles to fight against the aggressors.

The problem, apart from the hypocrisy, is the failure of imagination. Poland vanished from the European map for a couple of hundred years and then it came back. What you plan for the Ukraine is a happy nuclear wasteland. No grain for suffering nations in other countries, horrendous radiation for everyone living in and around Ukraine and so on BUT hey, your stand brought down Putin.

1 06 2022
Adrian J Ivakhiv

My only comment here, in response to filip and Raymond, is to quote a friend, Ukrainian academic and media theorist Svitlana Matviyenko (who probably qualifies as one of Raymond’s “‘safe’ New York Professors,” since she teaches at Simon Fraser University in Canada, though she has been residing in Kamianets-Podilsk, Ukraine, through the entirety of this invasion):
“a philosopher [Chomsky] who made his reputation on targeting the power apparatuses of manufacturing consent is advising the country fighting fascism to consent to it.”
(This comes from dispatch #9 of her “Dispatches from the Place of Imminence” (https://networkcultures.org/blog/author/svitlana/, which are well worth reading.)

The point is that there are so many intelligent analyses of what is going on being articulated by people who are living it, at ground level, people who bring their well honed analytical skills to understanding it from the inside, that relying exclusively on outsiders’ interpretations to make sense of it, no matter how respected those outsiders may be, is intellectual laziness. That’s why this blog exists, and there are many others like it.

9 06 2022
michael longhorn

Chomsky and other acolytes read it and maybe you will understand something.

Chomsky or this Kissinger, seemingly at opposite poles of their positions and talking exactly the same, both present the same yankee arrogance, “American exceptionalism”. obverse and reverse of the same coin.

https://www.newsweek.com/russian-tv-says-poland-next-target-invasion-1711967?utm_source=spotim&utm_medium=spotim_recirculation&spot_im_redirect_source=pitc

https://www.thedailybeast.com/kremlin-tv-says-poland-is-the-country-putin-will-invade-next

Paranoid suicides, self-murder extended but mystical mission to heal the world from euro-gayism fulfilled :D:D

https://twitter.com/JuliaDavisNews

Finally an ideologically unmarked article in this “suspected” of strange influences portal

https://www.counterpunch.org/2022/05/10/the-putinist-left-and-ukrainian-nationalism/

Russia is a colonial empire, colonial empire of the Muscovites and what has been happening for several decades now is a slow process of disintegration of this colonialism/decomposition and the process of emancipation of Moscow’s colonies just like the process of disintegration of Spanish, British, Belgian, Dutch and other colonial empires, a bit late because the Muscovite colonies were/are on land and it was/is easier to control/russify them.

Moscow has always used cannon fodder from its colonies for wars and murders, e.g. in the Second World War the population of Belarus lost 25%, Ukrainians 16%, Armenia 14%, Lithuania 13%, Latvia 14%, Tatarstan, Buriacja, Yakutia and other Asians about 10%, ethnic colonialists Moscow 6%.

It clarifies a lot in understanding the colonial state of Muscovy, its expansion and subsequent incarnations
(the grand duchy of Vladimir-Suszdal in the beginning, the Mongol enslavement, the principality of Moscow, the grand duchy of Moscow, the tsarate of Moscow, the Russian empire, the Soviet empire, the Russian federation)

https://dokumen.pub/download/internal-colonization-russias-imperial-experience-9780745651293.html

https://dokumen.pub/qdownload/internal-colonization-russias-imperial-experience-9780745651293.html

A visiting Austrian diplomat Siegmund von Herberstein in Russia in the first half of the 16th century :

“It is not known whether the people, by their rudeness, need a despotic sovereign.
Whether the rudeness of the people needs a despotic sovereign, or whether the tyranny of the sovereign makes
people become so thick-skinned, so insensitive and cruel.”

A perverse comment 🙂 “No change in the West”

14 06 2022
Jonathan M. Feldman

The letter to Chomsky was filled with distortions and mis-represented Chomsky. Despite these gross limitations, it received wide circulation. The reason is carefully explained by the logic of social media, knowledge resistance, and the absence of basic journalistic norms of fact checking.

Please read Chomsky’s response and my own critique here: https://www.counterpunch.org/2022/06/03/the-ukraine-war-chomsky-responds/

15 06 2022
Adrian J Ivakhiv

Thanks for sharing that exchange, as well as your response and analysis of the Ukrainian authors’ arguments.

Regarding the first: wow. It makes for interesting, yet very frustrating, reading. Frustrating because the two sides often seem to be talking past each other. Or more precisely, at least on my first reading of it, Chomsky comes off that way — as pedantic, self-righteous, defensive, and more interested in “touché” moments than in genuinely understanding the other side. Rather than beginning from a recognition and acknowledgment that the four Ukrainian scholars’ country is being traumatized by a horrific military invasion, he seems to treat them as enemies to be vanquished. I’ve seen this side of Chomsky in some other “debates” he’s had (e.g., with George Monbiot). It doesn’t add to my respect for him.

As for your own article, I will need to give it more time, but my initial impression is more positive.

(I’m curious, though, why CounterPunch’s by-line for the whole article credits Noam Chomsky as author – as if he wrote the entire article, when he’s just being quoted and analyzed. Are they struggling to attract readers, and need to pretend that Chomsky wrote a long piece for them? Seems strange to me.)

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