Conspiracy Nation -- Vol. 2 Num. 55

("Quid coniuratio est?")

NOAM CHOMSKY -- 10/17/94

My transcript of part of a talk given by Noam Chomsky at UICC (University of Illinois at Chicago Circle) on October 17, 1994. Special thanks to Paul Mueth for travelling to Chicago, taping the talk, then broadcasting it on local radio station WEFT 90.1 FM on Sunday, October 23, 1994.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +



...Well, the destruction of unions (quite apart from undermining article 23 [apparently of the U.N. universal human rights declaration of 1948]) has a lot of other consequences. One consequence is lowering wages. And, in fact, wages have been declining for most of the work force for about 20 years, but sharply since the, since the... under the Reaganites.

It's also undermined the benefits that are guaranteed by the universal declaration -- like health and safety standards in the workplace. So, industrial accidents have shot up, and so on, because the State is a criminal State. It doesn't enforce the laws [i.e., selectively enforces the laws, a.k.a. "Justice" = "Just us"].

It also destroys family values. Again, so if you look back at the UNESCO study on the Anglo-American attack... war against children, one of the reasons why families are disintegrating and why children are, you know, not doing well on school and that sort of thing is simply that parent-child contact has severely declined. In fact, it's declined by about 40 percent in the United States. And the reason it's declined is fairly straightforward: when 2 parents have to work a 55-60 hour week in order to survive and there's no public support systems and no day care, the children end up being latch-key kids or watching television. The rate of substance abuse goes way up. Alcoholism goes up. Violence against children and by children goes up. Uh, kind of automatically. Well that's part of the assault against families and against children by the people who are mislabeled "conservatives", you know, again, a propaganda achievement that would've blown Orwell's mind if he could see it.

But that's another consequence of the destruction of unions and the destruction of the whole social policy system that goes along with them. Incidentally, it's not that the State has been weakened. Under the Reaganites, State power was vastly increased. In fact, the ratio of State expenditures to GNP [Gross National Product] went up under Reagan, and we got a huge welfare State -- but for the rich! You know, none of this "nonsense" about support systems for the poor. Now we worry about the "bad genes". {1}.

Another effect of the destruction of unions has been to weaken democracy. Unions are one of the few means by which people, ordinary people, are able to pool their resources and to enter the political arena. They can't do it alone, they're not rich enough. But they can do it together. And one of the ways they've traditionally done it is unions. In fact, one of the reasons why the United States is so different from almost every other industrial country (even Canada, very much like us in other respects) is that they have unions and we don't. So they have ways for people to enter the democratic system that are lacking here.

In addition to that... And so, like, they have health care and social contract and things that we don't have. We're unlike other industrial countries in that respect. Although we're very advantaged. We have all kinds, I mean... U.S. the richest country in the world. It has absolutely unparalleled advantages. Which makes all of this even more dramatic.

And there's also a kind of psychological effect which is pretty hard to measure. But the effect of the destruction of unions and other aspects of functioning civil society is to sort of "privatize aspirations". It's to eliminate the sense that people can work together to achieve something. It means you're "out for yourself". That's the value that has to be instilled in everyone: "You're out for yourself. You don't care about anybody else." Actually, it took about 100 years of struggle to drive that into the heads of American working people. And it's been a long... 'cause they wouldn't accept it. But, there's been a lot of success in this. And again, that's another major victory for the values that we in fact, that American power in fact supports.

Actually, all of this tells you something about what people ought to do who care about other values. That's, people who care about actual human rights, or democracy and freedom and so on. Human rights, like labor rights, were never a gift. Everybody knows that. They were won by struggle. And in the United States, often a struggle that met with plenty of State/Corporate violence. And labor was always an important part of that struggle, a leading edge, in fact. And that was particularly true when labor was associated with political forms, when there was something like a labor-based party, and when there was a labor- based press, and so on. Under those conditions, you really had effective struggle. So you look at, say, health care in Canada: it came not just because you had powerful labor unions, but there was also a political party associated with them and there was a labor-based press associated with them, and so on. So you could drive it through.

And an important part of the tremendous victory of the highly class-conscious U.S. business class {2} is not only to weaken labor unions but also to have eliminated any form of labor-based party and to have wiped out the labor-based press -- which was alive in the United States. Like in Chicago, right up until the 1930s, in fact, it was quite lively. In England, it lasted even another 30 years, until it was finally destroyed by, just private power, basically.

And that tells you what people ought to do who want to bring the United States into, say, the 20th century. Or maybe even the 19th century. And there are initiatives. There are things that can be done. I'm sure you know plenty of them here. But one, for example, is the New Party, which is organizing around the country -- mostly locally, but if it can reach enough scale it could be nationally -- which could be a party based on popular organizations, labor being only one of them, of course, but a significant one. There are others, and they can be brought together so that labor's struggles become struggles for the general interest, not just for an isolated interest as they've been here to the extent that they take place at all. Another is the -- which I just learned about recently -- is the Chicago New Media Project and the Chicago Educational Network (if I've got the words right) which is bringing together (people here can tell you about it, no point in my doing it) educators, journalists, others, to set up alternative media and to bring parents and ordinary people... to involve them, to give them an opportunity to engage themselves in both learning about what's happening to their lives and doing something about it -- in the educational system and elsewhere. Community radio is another example. These are the kinds of things that can create alternatives; in fact, that offer some hope for the future. In fact, the only hope for the future. And if those opportunities, which do exist, are not pursued, the future is not gonna be very pretty to look at.

Well, I've talked about what's here... unnecessary to say that things are a lot worse in our "domains"... go on with that. Let's take another look at article 23 -- everyone has a right to work under just and favorable conditions. The International Labor Organization in Geneva recently published a report on working conditions around the world in which they pointed out that about a third of the work force in the world is unemployed. By that they mean, "lacks access to... doesn't earn enough for subsistence". So you know, like, maybe you can sell chewing gum in a market, but if you don't have enough for subsistence you're called "unemployed". That's about 30 percent, they say, of the world's population, last January, and increasing. They point out that that's a crisis. Kind of like the 1930s Depression, but in fact much worse, because it's global and it's part of a human rights catastrophe [all] over the world.

In the United States, of course, a richer country so it's not 30 percent and there is indeed a so-called "recovery" -- which is very sluggish; about half the normal rate with about a third the rate of job growth of other post-war recessions. And different kinds of jobs. An unprecedented number of them are temporary jobs. (That's supposed to be a "good thing", incidentally, for those of you who've studied "economics". That increases labor "flexibility". That cuts down rigidities in labor markets. And that's really "good". It means, for example, you don't have to worry about things like pensions and, you know, the right to fire people, and organizing rights, and so on. Those are all "rigidities" which cut down efficiency. I mean, they may be good for people, but they're not good for the economy.)

And there's a crucial distinction that you want to have to master if you want to get ahead in the world, and that is to understand that economic health and the health of the population are un- correlated. In fact, they're often negatively correlated. So you're gonna have economic "miracles". I mean, everything very "healthy" by the, you know, the highly ideological measures that are defined, in fact, to measure how things are working out for rich people. But the general population can be declining. And labor flexibility is one of the things that contributes to that. So that's a "good thing" and, in fact, it's a contribution to something that the Wall Street Journal called "a welcome development of transcendant importance" no less, namely that labor costs in the United States, which were the highest in the world (as you'd expect of the richest country) back in the mid- 80s, are now the lowest in the industrial world. Now they were the lowest, actually, in 1991. Then Thatcher succeeded in driving England even lower, so we're the second best in the world in the competition to see how much you can grind down our working people.

[ be continued...]

--------------------------<< Notes >>---------------------------- {1} "Now we worry about the 'bad genes'." Refers to recent release of a book called The Bell Curve which is being widely covered by the establishment press. Two things regarding this book and its thesis:

(a) Why is the establishment press giving this book so much coverage? Here is a book that has been "moved to the head of the class", so to speak. Why all the attention? Is it because the book is actually that good? Or is there a hidden purpose behind the promotion of this book?

(b) I especially liked an article read on the air by G. Gordon Liddy on his "Radio Free D.C." show that reviewed this book. The article was from the Washington Times of on or about October 21, 1994. The gist of the article was that because of the emphasis that has been placed on ethnicity and multiculturalism, we tend to view people as groups rather than as individuals. This leads to an emphasis on the "I.Q.s" (I say I.Q.s in quotes because a proper intelligence test requires a one on one evaluation -- my source for this assertion is a recent (10/21/94) Radio Free America show whose guest was a member of Mensa) of groups instead of individuals.

{2} "...the highly class-conscious U.S. business class..." Some confusion in terms may arise. Here, when Chomsky refers to what he calls the "U.S. business class", I take it to mean that part of business that is in cahoots with the State; that part of the business class that pays off the politicians who, in turn, favor them in their governmental policies.

Likewise, in passing, there is a lack of conciseness in our references to "conservatives". The word "conservative" has at least 2 meanings that I can see: it means one who favors traditional American values, who strongly supports the U.S. Constitution, etc. It also has taken on a meaning of a sort of reactionary person who favors major repression. This is unfair to true conservatives, who most definitely do not want "big brother" in our lives, and who in my opinion are actually quite progressive in some areas -- for example science and medicine.

I encourage distribution of "Conspiracy Nation."

If you would like "Conspiracy Nation" sent to your e-mail address, send a message in the form "subscribe conspire My Name" to -- To cancel, send a message in the form "unsubscribe conspire" to
Aperi os tuum muto, et causis omnium filiorum qui pertranseunt. Aperi os tuum, decerne quod justum est, et judica inopem et pauperem. -- Liber Proverbiorum XXXI: 8-9

Brian Francis Redman "The Big C"

"Justice" = "Just us" = "History is written by the assassins."