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Class/The Political Economy of the Mass Media (Noam Chomsky, 1989)

Noam Chomsky explains “the Propaganda Model”, the central theme of his book, co-authored with Edward Herman, MANUFACTURING CONSENT: THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF THE MASS MEDIA. Noam Chomsky spoke at the Wisconsin Union Theater on the Madison campus of the University of Wisconsin on the evening of March 15, 1989. The lecture was sponsored by the Wisconsin Union Directorate’s Distinguished Lecture Series for the 1988-89 academic year.

Part 1: Main Lecture

Part 2: Q&A Session

Personal Notes

Why did Lenin destroy (take over) the self-managed socialist workers' councils shortly after gaining power? Was he a socialist in name only?

This question is referred to in the Q&A Session when Chomsky discusses how the worlds largest propaganda models both completely distort the notion of socialism.

It’s a complicated story. In 1917 there were two kinds of worker councils. There were the shop delegates committees which were the main vehicle of struggles with the employers in 1917. In several hundred workplaces the assemblies and their delegate committees decided to seize control and directly socialize the workplace. This was one form of “self-managed socialism” that was created.

“At the January 1918 All Russian Trade Union Congress, the syndicalist and maximalist delegates (members of the Russian Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation (KRAS) and the Union of Socialist Revolutionaries-Maximalist (USRM)) put forward the proposal to create a national congress of the shop committees to achieve coordination and planning across the national economy. This was voted down, with the Bolsheviks opposing.

The Bolsheviks, under Lenin’s leadership, had just created the Supreme Council of National Economy, top down. After getting the Soviet Congress to allow them to set up a central state cabinet in Nov 1917, one of their first acts was to create this council, stacked with managers, party stalwarts, various bureaucrats, to devise a plan top down — no worker input. They also took over the glavki, which were industrial planning bodies set up by the old tsarist regime.

So the Leninists wanted to create a top down centralized form of national planning, and this was inconsistent with worker planning from below. After the onset of War Communism in 1918, with the Leninist regime nationalizing the economy from above, they replaced the worker shop committees with single managers appointed from above.

The other kind of “worker council” were the soviets. These were local delegate bodies elected from the assemblies in workplaces. For the most part they did not do running of economic operations. They had a more political role — countering the old government initially. In some cases they did take over things like housing or businesses. In Kronstadt in January 1918 the KRAS-URSM alliance got passed a measure to seize the local government (Duma) and all housing and businesses in Kronstadt, and institute worker assemblies and committees and control by the soviet. But that was opposed by the Bolshevik delegates who voted “no”. In general the Leninists opposed local moves to take over control of economic operations.

These local soviets were initially highly diverse, multi-party democratic bodies — with various left wing organizations represented. But over the first couple years after the revolution in 1917, the Communists used the Cheka to gradually repress the various alternative tendencies — such as the syndicalists, maximalists, left-mensheviks, etc. The KRAS (syndicalists) were repressed finally in 1921 due to the fact that with the suppression of the Worker Opposition faction in the Communist party, many of the workers who supported the Workers Opposition were shifting to KRAS.

By 1921 Trotsky and Lenin both were strongly beating the drum for the “dictatorship of the party.” I think this has its basis in the whole Marxist idea of the hegemony of the party. If only the “one Marxist party” can build socialism, then they can argue any other working class group must be “counter-revolutionary”. And indeed that’s how the Communists argued.” — Tom Wetzel (Former editor of anarcho-syndicalist magazine)

#Political Science #Class #Chomsky