- Edward Saiduniversity professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University.
- Frene Ginwalaspeaker of the National Assembly, South Africa, co-chair of the Global Coalition on Africa, member of the ANC National Executive Committee.
- Noam Chomskyprofessor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
- Manning Marabledirector of the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University and national co-chair of the Black Radical Congress.
- John Pilgerauthor and filmmaker.
Today, we stand on the border of two millennia. We will look back on the last century with some of the people who helped to document a pageant of abuse and to fight against injustice. Today we will hear comments from photojournalist Sebastião Salgado and writer Eduardo Galeano, and talk to author Edward Said, South African National Assembly Speaker Frene Ginwala, author Noam Chomsky, filmmaker John Pilger and author Manning Marable.
Edward Said, university professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, known for both his groundbreaking research in comparative literature and his incisive political commentary. One of the most prominent intellectuals in the world today, Said’s writing regularly appears in The Guardian of London, Le Monde Diplomatique and the Arab-language daily Al-Hayat, printed in every Arab capital in the world. He has written 18 books, translated into 24 languages, and has lectured at more than 150 universities and colleges in the United States, Canada and Europe. His writing includes, “Orientalism,” “Blaming the Victims,” “Culture and Imperialism” and “Peace and Its Discontents: Essays on Palestine in the Middle East Peace Process.” Said’s identification with and championship of the world’s dispossessed arises from intellectual rigor and personal experience. In 1948, Said and his family were exiled from Palestine and settled in Cairo. He now lives in New York. Because of his advocacy for Palestinian self-determination and his membership in the Palestine National Council, Said was not allowed to visit Palestine until several years ago.
Frene Ginwala, speaker of the National Assembly, South Africa, co-chair of the Global Coalition on Africa, member of the ANC National Executive Committee. Frene Ginwala is a longtime activist for the African National Congress and for women’s rights. In 1960, she left South Africa to arrange the escape of the late Oliver Tambo, the president of the ANC, and to help establish the ANC office in exile. Ginwala became head of the political research unit in the office of President Tambo and was known for her research on South Africa’s nuclear program, sanctions, and the arms and oil embargo. She also lectured at universities and institutions in various countries and participated in U.N., UNESCO and other international conferences. When the ANC was unbanned, Dr. Ginwala, after more than 30 years in exile, returned to South Africa. There she helped to found the Women’s National Coalition and became its first convener. She also served as the deputy head of the ANC Commission for the Emancipation of Women, the ANC representative on the Science and Technology Initiative, and headed the ANC’s Research Department. She is currently the speaker of the South African National Assembly and co-chair of the Global Coalition for Africa.
Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has published more than 70 books and more than 1,000 articles in linguistics, philosophy, politics, cognitive sciences and psychology. But it is as an unflinching activist that he is looked to by masses around the world. For more than 50 years, Chomsky has opposed those who perpetrate and support injustice. Throughout — from the struggle against the Vietnam War to U.S. wars on Central America to the NATO attacks on Yugoslavia — he has provided sanity, inspiration and intellectual ammunition to movements and people who fight for social and economic justice. His books criticizing American foreign policy and the role of giant corporations and the mass media include “Toward a New Cold War,” “On Power and Ideology” and “Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies.”
Manning Marable, director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University and national co-chair of the Black Radical Congress. He has written over 15 books, including “How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America.” His most recent book, “Let Nobody Turn Us Around,” is an anthology of the Black freedom movement.
John Pilger, author and filmmaker John Pilger is a journalist and crusader who embodies I.F. Stone’s injunction to comfort the oppressed and oppress the comfortable. Born in Sydney, Australia, Pilger has won several awards, including British journalism’s highest award, Journalist of the Year, for his work as a war correspondent. He has covered Vietnam, Cambodia, Egypt, India, Bangladesh and Biafra. His books include “The Last Day” and “Aftermath: The Struggles of Cambodia and Vietnam.” Pilger is also an award-winning filmmaker. Many of his films, especially those on Cambodia, East Timor and Iraq, have alerted millions all over the world to the West’s hidden agendas.
AMY GOODMAN: Today, we’re going to look at the past century, maybe even go back further, to this past millennium, and we’re going to look ahead. We’ll do it with Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, John Pilger, South African Parliament Speaker Frene Ginwala and Manning Marable. But we’re going to start where we left off yesterday, with Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano and Sebastião Salgado, the famed Brazilian photojournalist. I recently had an opportunity to ask them about their thoughts.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re moving into a new millennium. Sebastião, your latest book, Migrations, the upheavals of people, the millions [inaudible], do you see hope as we come to the end of this millennium?
SEBASTIÃO SALGADO: When you put the question a few minutes ago, what was the most important fact in this end of millennium, for me, the most important fact in this end of millennium was the disintegration of Africa. That is a very negative important fact, but, for me, it was the most important one. What I saw in Africa was something incredible, is I had moments that were not very happy to be a human, an animal, no? Because when I started this work — I had finished Workers, that in the end was the first chapter, and Migrations the second chapter of the same body of work, and I was coming quite enthusiastic about the behavior of the humans, because I thought the human was basically a animal made to transform goods, the material, and constructor animal capable to build incredible things. And I went inside Migrations, second chapter, and now I’m not more as enthusiastic as this.
I believe if you can go to a dialogue, if really we can discuss what for me feel a little bit difficult, if it was possible to us to stop for one year or two years all the humanity, and put again the questions — What do you want? Why we work? All the health that we have is to use for what? You know, what can we build together? — if we arrive to discuss, to put these questions, to raise these questions, I believe that we have a possibility of survival. But if we don’t arrive to discuss — in function of all this that I saw, I went, to date, for more than 100 countries, and probably I’m one of the few persons in the planet that saw so many things I really went to see, to photograph — and if we don’t go to a discussion, I believe that we are a specimen that will not survive. I believe that the hope is very, very small to survive.
AMY GOODMAN: Eduardo?
EDUARDO GALEANO: Look, I think that reality is not a destiny. It’s a challenge. And the world can change, that we are not doomed to accept it as it is, even if there is a system which disguises itself as eternity. But I don’t think it’s eternal. And I was thinking in these days about something that I should call the pain added tax. You know, there is a value added tax. But there is also a pain added tax, invisible but we are all paying it. All over the world, we are paying the pain added tax.
AMY GOODMAN: Eduardo Galeano, Uruguayan writer, author of Open Veins of Latin America, his latest book, Upside Down, and before that, Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Salgado, his latest photojournalism book on Migrations, the book before that, Workers: [An Archaeology of] the Industrial Age. I’m Amy Goodman, and here I am with Juan González on this last day Democracy Now! will be broadcasting in this millennium.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And good day to our listeners all around the country. And we have an especially good show here with some of the most brilliant minds in this country and in Africa talking with us today.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s right, Juan. We’ll be talking with Noam Chomsky, British filmmaker John Pilger, South African Parliament Speaker Frene Ginwala, Manning Marable. But we’re going to begin with professor Edward Said, a well-known intellectual, Palestinian activist. And we’re beginning with him as we move into the next millennium, because, well, I guess, the calendar counts back now 2,000 years to Bethlehem and to the birth of Jesus Christ, and today Bethlehem is the site of tremendous — the area of Bethlehem and the Occupied Territories and Israel, the Middle East, the site of tremendous controversy and violence. The latest news we have today, Israel has closed off the West Bank and Gaza Strip in response to bomb attacks that killed two Israeli soldiers, wounded 16 other people and further hampered efforts to forge a peace agreement with the Palestinians. That’s how the Associated Press has put it. Overnight, Israeli special forces in the West Bank arrested eight Palestinians suspected of hostile activities, the army said, without giving details.
Well, Edward Said was with us, is with us, the university professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. He has written numerous books, including Orientalism, as well as his well-known books on the Middle East, civilization, and Culture and Imperialism and so much more.
Welcome to Democracy Now!
EDWARD SAID: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Said.
EDWARD SAID: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: Your thoughts today, at the end of the millennium and with the crisis in the West Bank, Gaza, Israel?
EDWARD SAID: Well, the first thing that comes to mind, given your introduction, is the very, very high cost of monotheism. I mean, don’t forget that that part of the world seems to have a natural product, and that is — or, manufacture, monotheism, the way other places manufacture silver and gold. And it’s produced horrendous conflict, most of it, I would have thought, looking back over that period of time, modern, with the advent of nationalism and the legacy of colonialism.
That is to say, there was a policy after the Ottomans were defeated at the beginning of the century, when the British and then the French took over the whole of the Middle East, with a few exceptions. They stayed there until the Second World War, when their empires generally were dismantled and crumbled. When they left, they instituted a policy of divide and quit. And so Palestine was divided, and Lebanon and Syria were divided, and many of the countries of Middle East which were natural units were also divided. And the result has been competing nationalisms egged on by great power, rivalry, tremendous militarization, and a conflict brought on by the incoming Zionists to the Middle East that has polarized the region and turned it into a series of divided states. Some have gone into civil war of a very bloody kind, like Lebanon, for example, most of them autocracies.
And I know the cant or the cliché is that Israel is the only democracy. It isn’t. It’s like the others. It’s ruled by an ethnocracy. That is to say, if you’re Jewish, you get special privileges, which if you’re not Jewish, which 20% of the population is not, then you live in a state of apartheid. And the conflict at hand between the Palestinians and the Israelis, as described by the Associated Press and others, is not as described, really. It’s the result of a policy of expulsion. Palestinians were expelled in 1948, 530 villages destroyed, an entire people dispossessed, in order to institute this new Jewish state, which gives rights to Jews to come and settle from any part of the world, whereas Palestinians have no such rights.
And this whole Middle East process, peace process, as it’s been called, has foundered simply because it hasn’t attended to the — thanks to American supervision of it, it hasn’t attended to the basic issues, which are: Can there be a state of coexistence between the people of the area and these apartheid states in which only certain members of religious groups and ethnicities have privileges that the others don’t? And unless that problem is attended to, unless the problem of Israel’s history and founding is looked at honestly and squarely, then nothing will ever happen. It’ll just go on. More and more Palestinians, who are vastly outgunned — I mean, the Israeli army has, you know, helicopters and missiles and tanks, and the Palestinians have none, just young people throwing stones and rocks at tanks, fighting off the hideous occupation, which, aside from the Japanese occupation of Korea, is the longest military occupation of the 20th century.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Professor Said, I’m very interested in what you’ve said initially about the whole issue of the Middle East producing monotheism and the conflicts that have accompanied it — I mean, if we’re looking back over time from the days of the Crusades and the Ottoman Empire. But the interplay between religious strife and nationalism and economic domination, because very often a lot of these religious battles have really massed even deeper problems of either great power domination or economic domination by internal ruling classes.
EDWARD SAID: Well, to some extent, you’re right. It’s difficult to generalize about, you know, 2,000 years of history, but just look at the difference between the Ottoman Empire, which ruled what is now Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, etc., right down into Iraq and the Gulf, for 400 years and then was succeeded by the British and the French, and then by the Israelis, who are the new superpower of the area. The difference is that the Turks ruled through basically notables of the area. They didn’t try to move people around. They didn’t try to create new states. They didn’t try to dispossess some people and bring in new ones. They just kept things as they — they were really interested in taxes. I mean, my father grew up under the Ottoman Empire.
The new dispensation has been to manipulate populations. I mean, there’s a fantastic condescension and contempt for the natives, because the white man always knows better. And part of this was to bring in an incoming population of essentially foreign people, namely the Jews who came from Europe to found Israel, and to create there what Ben-Gurion and Weizmann and the early Zionists said was quite clearly to be a Western state in the middle of the Islamic area, I mean, of a vastly Islamic area, there to rule and preserve Western interests, which, over time, have developed to include oil, strategic position and so on and so forth. And the role of the great powers has always been — I mean, it doesn’t take, you know, a Ph.D. in history to know this. I mean, the great powers really are not interested in anything except their own interests.
And it seems to me that the history of the last 10 years has been, you know, with the U.S. as the only superpower, with a fantastically bad record, throughout the non-European world, of killing, of siding with dictators, of supporting the worst kinds of oppression and torture, has done the same in the Middle East. It has supported basically Israeli governments to the tune of over $150 billion to do what they want in order to keep the peace, along with a lot of compliant dictatorships, oligarchies and dynastic families to continue to rule, who have become closer to the United States and further away from their own people. They’re all isolated. That includes the Palestinian Authority, I’m sorry to say. And the result has been a living disaster for the people of the area, whether they’re Jews or Muslims or Christians.
And I just, you know — sorry, I can barely speak. But the question to be asked is whether the end of colonialism has brought a worse kind of imperialism and colonialism or, in fact, an improvement. I think the former. I mean, there’s certainly not much to be said for the kinds of independence that these states now practice against their own people and others that are deemed not to deserve the normal human rights.
And I must say also that the U.S. plays a very important role in all this, because it’s the only power. It’s the one that they all run to. And what it’s produced in the peace process of the last seven or eight years, to say nothing of what it’s done in Turkey and in the Gulf, elsewhere, Pakistan and so on, is horrendous. And it can’t be. And, you know, what worries me is the absence of any critical thought in mainstream discourse, whether in the media or elsewhere, about so-called peace in the Middle East and elsewhere that is aware of these completely open, blatant realities. They’re not hermetic secrets. They can be seen in the results of not only of the several hundred Palestinians who have been killed, basically unarmed Palestinians killed by Israeli troops, demonstrating — I mean, I think there’s a sign of hope here: No matter how long the occupation, they’re still trying to struggle for some kind of freedom, some kind of independence, against overwhelming odds, but also against the sort of peace plans of a distant superpower run by a man, Clinton, who has, in the last couple of weeks, tried to impose a peace on the area that is as thoughtless and as mindless as everything that he does. It’s like, you know, eating pizza, talking on the telephone and being serviced by Monica Lewinsky at the same time. It’s that. It comes from the same bag of tricks. And it can’t address the fundamental issues, which people will always struggle for: justice, economic opportunity and equality of some sort, and a sense of independence and liberation. And that has been denied the area for too long.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what do you see as the prospects, not just within Palestine and the Occupied Territories, but within the Muslim world in general, for greater move toward a liberation which will oppose foreign domination but at the same time not resort to the kind of a backward fundamentalism —
EDWARD SAID: Yes, that’s a very good question.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: — that is almost a mirror image of what is going on in Israel?
EDWARD SAID: What has been lost — you see, again, you have to be close to the area in some way and not rely on what you see in the papers. What has been lost sight of is that in every country that you can think of, whether it’s Egypt, certainly Iran — I mean, Iran is a wonderful example of a continuing struggle against theocracy, against, of course, outside intervention and so on, but also internally for greater freedom of expression, you know, more equitable economic and educational opportunities for everyone. But it’s also taking place in the other countries, certainly taking place in Syria. It’s certainly taking place in Lebanon and Palestine. People all through the area, there are struggles. You could say they’re microstruggles. But they’ve been lost sight of in the tremendous need to have a foreign devil, to talk about fundamentalism and terrorism and so on and so forth.
And I think those are the struggles which take place on a local level for women’s rights, for workers’ rights. I mean, even in the Palestinian areas, there are nascent attempts, constantly, of NGO — not through government. You see, I think governments, alas, in this new period that we’re entering, are part of the hostile landscape. The people are forced, you know, almost in an anarcho-syndicalist way, to rely on nongovernmental institutions to set up medical aid committees to go to villages, for example, in Palestine — that’s been very successful — to organize workers and have a workers’ rights movement, to organize not just against the Israelis, but also against the Palestinian authorities who are in cahoots with the Israelis when it comes to taxing the workers, women’s movements to organize against the patriarchy of the traditional system. I mean, that can be multiplied throughout the area, you see.
And that’s, I think, where the hope lies, not in these great power machinations and these peace processes. And I think that plus education, which has sorely lagged behind, where people’s horizons are open not just to the realities of their everyday life and the miseries thereof, but also to look, for example, to the example of South Africa to see the defeat of apartheid as an example of what it means to liberate yourself and how to overcome the disparities between races and peoples and how to institute a real democracy, things of this sort. I think that’s where the hope is.
But the near future, to rely on governments, to rely on the United States, etc., I think, is very, very bloody and very, very bleak to me, because the leadership is exhausted. It’s old. It’s overstayed its welcome. It’s isolated from its people. And look at countries like Egypt, like Palestine, like Syria. These are ruled like dynasties, even though they may be republics and socialist democratic republics and so on. Many of them don’t have any vice presidents. There’s no second-in-command. They’re ruled by fiat with the support of the United States. So I think one has to look beyond that, because, as I say, the immediate prospects are not all [inaudible].
AMY GOODMAN: Professor Edward Said, we want to thank you for joining us. In fact, we’re going next to South Africa. We’ll be speaking with the speaker of the National Assembly about this past century in Africa, about where we’re headed, for just a few minutes, in this end-of-millennium conversation. We’ll also be joined by filmmaker John Pilger, by Noam Chomsky and Manning Marable. Professor Said, university professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, well known for his groundbreaking research in comparative literature and his political commentary. Among his books, Orientalism, as well as Culture and Imperialism, Peace and Its Discontents: Essays on Palestine in the Middle East Peace Process. You are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! Back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s right, you are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! The Exception to the Rulers. I’m Amy Goodman, here with Juan González. And on Monday on Democracy Now!, we will be playing “A Shortcut Through the 20th Century,” produced by WBAI producer Peter Bochan, as we do every year at the end of the year. And today, as we continue our end-of-the-millennium conversation, we turn to Frene Ginwala in South Africa. She is the current speaker of the South African National Assembly, a longtime activist with the African National Congress and for women’s rights. She left South Africa in 1960 to arrange the escape of the late Oliver Tambo, president of the ANC. She became head of the political research unit in the office of President Tambo, known for her research on South Africa’s nuclear program, sanctions and the arms and oil embargo. She is currently speaker of the South African National Assembly and co-chair of the Global Coalition for Africa.
We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Frene Ginwala.
FRENE GINWALA: Good afternoon.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. And if you could speak as loud as you possibly can, so our listeners around the United States will be able to hear you, and around the world, on the internet, as we broadcast there, as well? We wanted to ask you about, as we look — I mean, this is a tall order, but at the end of this century, as we look at Africa, we heard at the top of the program Sebastião Salgado, the Brazilian photojournalist, saying the crime of this century has been the despoliation of or the destruction of Africa. What is your response to that?
FRENE GINWALA: I don’t think the — it has been the crime of the century, but I don’t think the patient is dead. I think there is hope. And certainly in the last two decades of the century, there has been a slow turnaround. And very, very importantly, it’s been a turnaround motivated by people in Africa themselves.
And Africa is described as a continent of conflict. Well, in the last decade, we’ve reduced that literally by 50%. Today we have roughly nine countries, out of 54, in which there are some types of conflict. Now, that’s a vast change from a decade or two decades ago.
Secondly, the spread of good governance, of democratic processes — and, by this, I don’t just mean running one election, but a series. Countries are now into their second and third elections. Heads of state have stood down. The number of coups has gone down.
Now, these are small things, but they are laying foundations of where we need to go and where we want to go. So I think the problems are there, economic problems are there, but at least the will of the people to try and make and to effect change has been expressed and, I believe, will continue.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But, Dr. Ginwala, while at the beginning of the 20th century, clearly, Africa was still under complete domination, virtually complete domination, by the Western colonial powers, and here, at the dawn of the 21st century now, it is populated by independent states, and, as you say, the number of conflicts have diminished, but it seems that the scope of the conflicts, the wars now that are occurring in Africa, are at a much wider scale and much more human carnage occurring, and of course the militarization of the continent seems to be increasing at a very fast pace. What is your sense about the ability over the next few years of African leaders to be able to resolve these huge civil wars now that are occurring in some of the nations?
FRENE GINWALA: Well, I think the civil wars have diminished. The major conflict remains in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has become a regional conflict. And there, at least we have succeeded in removing the international element, international in the sense of outside of the continent, but regional powers have got involved. But in Rwanda, basically, the genocide has come to an end. Burundi, there are signs of optimism and peace. The war in Eritrea and Somalia — in Eritrea, Ethiopia has brought a ceasefire. Somalia is beginning to have a democratic governance. Sierra Leone is still a problem. But relatively, there has been progress. It has not got worse. I think, you know, it may appear that way, but factually, on the ground, the numbers of conflicts and the scale of conflict has actually gone down.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And the issue of land redistribution, which in many of the — especially the recently liberated nations, beginning in the '70s, ’80s and ’90s, has grown. And, of course, in the United States, there has been undue attention, it seems to me, of what's going on in Zimbabwe. But the issue of land redistribution and justice for those Africans who live on the land, how do you see that working its way out, and what’s your view of what has been going on in Zimbabwe?
FRENE GINWALA: Zimbabwe has not addressed the question of land redistribution. I think it would be foolish to suggest that it has. And in South Africa, we cannot support the means that have been used, notwithstanding that other powers may have reneged on commitments.
We have a particular process in South Africa of people being able to reclaim land. Large amounts of land have been returned. Similarly, there are processes in other countries. But the problem of land redistribution, firstly, depends on whether you’re talking of redistribution in terms of settlers. And that is now a very few number of countries. The second cost of redistribution, it’s not just land redistribution. It’s the inequalities within the countries themselves, which are — and they are very, very great. The disparity in the ownership of all forms of wealth, between the wealthy group and the marginalized poor, is very, very great. And that depends from country to country.
But I believe, overall, there is, again, a beginning of change there, linked to the fact of now. If governments are going to be dependent on being elected rather than taking power through undemocratic means, they are going to have to respond to the real needs and the issues that the communities and the people themselves are asking for.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally, Dr. Ginwala — and I’m sorry this phone line is so bad as we speak to you in Cape Town, speaker of the South African National Assembly — is the political transformation of South Africa a lesson, do you see, as we move into the next millennium, not just for Africa, but for the rest of the world?
FRENE GINWALA: Well, the political transformation in South Africa has been successful. Our democracy is fragile, but it is now, we believe, quite sustainable. But the major socioeconomic feature, which is going to affect political stability in the long run, unless we are able to address it, is the deep-rooted inequity in our society, with the divisions following racial lines of the past. Now, that is a major challenge for us. Unless we’re able to address the question of poverty and bridge the divisions across the racial groups, our democracy will not be sustainable. And that’s where our main focus has got to be in the new century.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for joining us, Dr. Frene Ginwala, South African speaker of the National Assembly, a speaker of the Parliament of South Africa, speaking to us from Cape Town. Thank you for joining us for this end-of-the-millennium conversation, as we move now back to the United States to talk with Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has published scores of books, one of the leading intellectuals and activist thinkers of the century. It’s as an unflinching activist that he’s looked to by masses around the world, as he took on the struggles in Vietnam, Central America, the NATO attacks on Yugoslavia. And today, as we come to the end of the century, it’s a tall order, Noam Chomsky, but tell us your thoughts.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, since I just looked at The New York Times, I guess the thoughts are directed to The New York Times, what they reported, which are a number of things.
There’s a front-page story saying that Bill Clinton, in his majesty, offered the Palestinians the choice of peace or victimhood. And if you really look carefully down into the story and you read the last paragraph of the continuation page, as usual, you can find out that what he offered them is approximately, relevant to your last speaker, what South Africa offered the South African Blacks in the early 1960s. You have to spell out the details and take a look at the maps that they don’t present, and understand what they mean when they talk about Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem — namely, a substantial part of the West Bank that cuts it in half and ensures that there will be no contiguous Palestinian state and so on. That’s pretty normal.
Another front-page story describes — mentions the appointment of — reports the appointment of Rumsfeld as the secretary of defense and notes that he was a big Star Wars advocate, pushed the national missile defense, which, as the story does not go on to point out, is very likely — it will almost certainly increase significantly the security dangers to the United States and the world, for reasons that have been well explained by U.S. intelligence analysts, and maybe a step towards ensuring that we don’t make it to the next — the end of the next century. And we can go on from there.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Professor Chomsky, in terms of the situation right here at home in the United States, clearly over the last several decades of the century, the American labor movement and the people’s movement appeared for a while to suffer some amazing setbacks. And in the last few years, there have been some signs of life in the organized labor movement once again, and a movement that was declared dead by many Republicans and other supporters of capital in the country now has shown amazing signs of life. But still, there’s been an enormous trend in American society to get workers invested in capitalism. In essence, so many firms now have developed 401(k) plans, and there’s this alleged democatization of investment in capital. Do you see a growing disconnect between the American people and what is occurring in the rest of the world, especially in the Third World? Or are the signs of things that happened in places like Seattle and the movement against sweatshops and the environmental movement by young people really, in your estimation, the sign of things to come and a growing change of consciousness in the broad sectors of the American people?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the effort to — what’s called getting workers to invest in capitalism is a bit of a joke. Actually, there was a lead story in The Wall Street Journal yesterday pointing out exactly what’s meant by all of this. It’s a way for the — it’s one of the many ways by which corporations shirk the responsibility that they had undertaken to provide pensions for longtime workers, medical care and so on. It’s a lot of chicanery. They actually go into the details pretty well. If you want to look at investment in America, just have a look at distribution of stocks in the stock market. Close to half the stocks are in the hands of about 1% of the population. The bottom 80% of the population, which includes of course all the workforce, it has about, I think, 4% or something like that, distributed over a huge population. This is a joke. I mean, to use the word “democratization” is ridiculous. If there were real worker investment in corporations, that would mean worker takeover of corporations, which would be significant. But surely that’s not what’s contemplated.
As for Seattle and the Third World, we should bear in mind that massive protests against the neoliberal policies of the last 20 years have been going on in the Third World for a long, long time, really major ones, including major popular movements which have substantial institutional form, in Brazil, in South Africa, in India and elsewhere. Recently, the last couple of years, these protests have spread to the north, to the United States, at which point, you know, they become visible all of a sudden. Seattle was extremely important in that respect, wasn’t the first case, but was the first case where it actually broke into the public in such a way that you couldn’t ignore it. The large-scale protests in the north, involving not just students, but labor movement, environmentalists, others, the range of constituencies, was remarkable, and with international solidarity — so, solidarity actually for the first time in any serious way between forces here, including the labor movement, crucially, and counterparts in the Third World, which had been protesting for years. And this has continued.
So, sure, there’s a tremendous popular counterreaction all over the world to the policies that have been instituted, and there’s nothing new about the objections. So, for example, when NAFTA was passed, the population was mostly against it here, and has remained against it. These issues, the serious issues that affect working people, meaning most of the population, they’re not even raised in the electoral campaigns and elsewhere. For example, one of the most significant concerns of Americans, North Americans, people from the United States, is the trade deficit. Turns out that’s very high. That’s been their chief economic concern in the last year or two. And the reason is, they’re not stupid. They know that that means U.S. corporations transferring operations abroad to undercut working people at home. And that’s a — you can argue about whether the majority of the population is right or not, but that’s their concern.
They’re also concerned about the fact that the capital mobility that’s part of the neoliberal program, you know, the ability of corporations to threaten — they don’t have to do it — to threaten to move elsewhere, mostly to Mexico, but elsewhere, too, has been a tremendously effective device in undermining the American labor movement. In fact, it’s one of its prime purposes. There’s a new study about that by Kate Bronfenbrenner at the University of Cornell that people really ought to have a look at, the effectiveness of this weapon, the weapon of illegal, of threat — illegal threat to transfer production. The effectiveness of that in union busting has been extraordinary. It doesn’t show up in the figures of transfer, because most of them have no intention of transferring. It’s just a threat which ensures that workers will be insecure. And greater worker insecurity, meaning, you know, not knowing whether they have a job tomorrow, that’s considered by Alan Greenspan and others as one of the remarkable achievements of the contemporary economy, the Clinton economy, the Clinton-Greenspan economy. It has made working people extremely insecure, for good reasons, and therefore afraid of challenging the attacks on their wages and benefits, which are significant.
AMY GOODMAN: Noam, finally, do you have hope more for the next century than this one? Do you see positive movements?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, you know, we should remember that these attacks on democracy and on human rights and on working people, they’re a constant. They never change. Those forces are always at work. The question is whether popular forces resist them. And over the past century, they have resisted them. It’s been a bitter, harsh struggle, lots of people killed. Many suffered. But over the century, there was progress.
And I would expect the same to be true over the next century. The question is how far it will go. Will it go to challenging the core of the institutions of domination and coercion, or will it be able to achieve a significant amelioration of their harsh practices? Those are truly questions that we ought to be asking. But, you know, these are topics for action, not for speculation. Nobody can speculate.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Noam Chomsky, we want to thank you very much for being with us today and through these years. Thank you.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Good to be with you.
AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has written more than 70 books. His activism around issues of social justice is known throughout the world. You’re listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! When we come back, we’ll go to Britain to speak with filmmaker John Pilger, who has reported extensively on Cambodia, Iraq, East Timor, Indonesia and other places. As well, we’ll be joined by Manning Marable, who is head of the African American Studies Institute at Columbia University. You’re listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! Back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, here with Juan González. And this is what’s coming up on Monday on Democracy Now!
NARRATOR: In the first year of the 21st century, there is strange and wondrous beauty, startling experiences that jolt and mystify, and the danger of complete obliteration.
UNIDENTIFIED: They came into our house, took the fort, threw us down like dogs, totally unarmed, as you can see.
PROTESTERS: Amadou! Amadou! Amadou! Amadou!
UNIDENTIFIED: Let’s hold our wallet! Let’s hold our wallet!
MARISLEYSIS GONZALEZ: They came here, and they broke the door of my mom’s room.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: What is at issue here is the fundamental fairness of the process as a whole.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I don’t think so. I really haven’t thought of it that way.
ELECTIONS CANVASSING COMMISSIONER: We are here today to certify the results of the election that occurred November 7th, 2000.
FILMORE: We want a recount.
MR. GARRISON: What?
FILMORE SUPPORTERS: Recount! Recount! Recount! Recount! Recount!
MR. GARRISON: Oh, of all the juvenile things I’ve ever heard!
UNIDENTIFIED: You will not get my vote.
RICHIE ROSENBERG: In the year 2000.
NARRATOR: Tune in for “A Shortcut to the 21st Century.”
BOB DOLE: I’m an optimist. I never look at the — try not to look at the dark side. I want to look at the positive side.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: I don’t think so. I really haven’t thought of it that way.
NARRATOR: That’s “A Shortcut to the 21st Century.”
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: In the 21st century.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Monday on Democracy Now!, “A Shortcut to the 20th Century,” produced by Peter Bochan. You are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! As we continue with our end-of-the-millennium conversation, Manning Marable is with us on the line. He is the director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University, national co-chair of the Black Radical Congress. He is also — his most recent book is titled Let Nobody Turn Us Around. And I wonder, as we move into the next millennium and you see what’s happened in the last election, I believe one in nine African Americans voted for the president-select right now, George Bush. And it may well be the African American vote in this country that was most discounted in — if you could even call it an election at this point. Your thoughts on where we stand?
MANNING MARABLE: Well, clearly, President Bush was not elected by the people; he was selected by the courts. And African Americans represented the — overwhelmingly, the core constituency that rejected the politics of George W. Bush. In Florida alone, the Black vote jumped from something 520,000 in 1996 to nearly 1 million. In Missouri, nearly 300,000 African Americans voted, compared to only 106,000 four years before. In state after state, the African American vote was the critical margin of victory for the Gore-Lieberman ticket.
And truly, the tragedy of the 2000 election is that Gore and Lieberman were unwilling or unable to rest their demands for a recount on the mass disenfranchisement of African American and poor voters throughout this country. Consequently, Black Americans were fighting for a principle of democracy that neither the Democratic Party nor its candidate for president were prepared to stake a claim to.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Professor Marable, one of the — there’s a report, of course, in today’s papers about the census count and how the Census Bureau was taken by surprise by more than — 8 million more people than they expected live in the United States. And my sources have told me that one of the big things they’re trying to decide is that, apparently, a good portion of those are Hispanics, an increasing population, more than what was expected, and they’re trying to figure out how to bring that news out. But what do you see as the prospects for an increasing development of unity between African American and Latino communities into the next century as the enormous demographic changes that are occurring in this country change the very composition of the nation itself?
MANNING MARABLE: Well, I think that the Republican Party has figured out, long ago, that if they can siphon off at least 10 to 15% of the African American vote and one-third of the Latino vote, they have a hammerlock on national politics. Since 1964, the U.S. electorate — the U.S. white electorate has voted — has not voted for, a majority, for the Democratic Party presidential candidate. So, white Americans this time around voted about 42% in favor of Al Gore, so that clearly a majority of white Americans, regardless of income, regardless of social class status, have embraced the Republican agenda. Keep in mind, though, that’s only the electorate; that’s not the general population, so that the Latino vote is critically important as a part of a broad front, an anti-neoliberal, anti-globalization front, that has to be constructed in the United States.
The real question is: Can both Black and Latino leadership overcome parochialism, overcome the politics of narrow, petit-bourgeois identitarianism, to embrace a broad, progressive agenda around jobs and social justice that transcends the particularities of our individual communities and fights for democracy and economic justice? That’s really the challenge of leadership during this next century.
AMY GOODMAN: And where do you think those leaders are coming from?
MANNING MARABLE: Well, they’re going to come, I believe, from quarters that are largely outside of the electoral arena. I think that one of the interesting things about globalization and of the transformation of global politics in this period of neoliberalism is that, increasingly, Black and Latino leadership, grassroots leadership, will find that the objectives of our civil rights movement were in many ways misplaced. Thirty years ago, when people asked the Black community, “What do you want?” we would say, “We want a Black face in a high place.” We wanted somebody who looked like us in a symbolic position of power.
Well, guess what. Now we have it. We’ve got Colin Powell as the secretary of state. We have Condi Rice, who will be the national security adviser. Under this kind of Black leadership, we’re going to see Bush pursue an even more aggressive pro-imperialist, neoliberal agenda than the Clinton and Gore administration. Both Condi Rice and Colin Powell applauded the Senate’s rejection last year of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. They promised to abrogate the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, if it can’t be renegotiated with the Russians to allow for the deployment of a massive national military defense system. Condi Rice and the Secretary of State-designate Colin Powell also reject the Kyoto global warming treaty that even Gore supported. So, when one looks both at the global, the international level and the domestic level, you see, increasingly, Black and Brown faces implementing neoliberal policies that directly contradict the material interests of the vast majority of working and poor people, who are Black, Latino, Asian American and white.
AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you very much, Manning Marable, for being with us, director of the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University, as we go to our final guest today, John Pilger, whose films have spanned the globe, from 1970, his films on Vietnam, to films on Mr. Nixon’s Secret Legacy, Do You Remember Vietnam? in 1978, Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia in 1979, Nicaragua: A Nation’s Right to Survive in the 1980s, Burp! Pepsi v. Coke in the Ice-Cold War, The Secret Country: The First Australians Fight Back about the remarkable story of the Aborigines, with a unique 40,000-year past in his own country where he hails from, though he lives now in Britain, John Pilger, whose done incredible work on East Timor, as well as Cambodia, Nicaragua and the other countries. As you listen to this conversation at the end of the millennium, your thoughts today?
JOHN PILGER: Well, my thoughts today are not all that sanguine, I have to say. I think, as Noam Chomsky pointed out, things really don’t change. The same enemies are there for ordinary people, and they need to be opposed. These days, there’s a gloss. “Globalization” is a horrible word, and it simply means imperialism. That was a word that was banished from popular usage after it was associated with fascism following the Second World War. But that’s what we have these days: imperialism.
I was just reading today a study of the General Agreement on Trade in Services, GATS, which is a very little-known part of the whole thrust of the international institutions in really claiming much of the world in an imperial way. This is going to make inroads into countries that even the WTO hasn’t been able to do, or the World Bank or the IMF, in that it will effect the privatization of services, of water, health, education, distribution, that kind of thing. In other words, almost every area of public life now is under threat. That’s fairly new, although the source of that threat is not new.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: John Pilger, I’d like to ask you — if the 19th century was the century of the novel as the main art form to reach the masses of people, certainly the 20th century was the — the main art form was film. What is your sense of the impact of film on the development of consciousness or of social control among people around the world? And, unfortunately, we’ve got a — if you could do it in a few minutes?
JOHN PILGER: Yeah.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I know it’s a big topic, but your thoughts on that?
JOHN PILGER: Well, I think film is — as you have said, has been the most significant development in terms of consciousness raising. Documentary film has raised the consciousness of peoples all over the world. I know some of the effects that my own films have had when they’ve been shown. And that’s why, as a species, serious documentaries on mainstream television are virtually extinct in the United States, and I’m talking about political documentaries. They’re fighting for their life over here. They’re extinct in many other countries, because they do have — they can combine the intellect, they can combine the head and the heart, they can combine the present and the past. They can be essays of change. They can evoke. They can call people to arms. They can cut across all those barriers that are put up to confuse people and obfuscate issues. So, I have an abiding belief in the power of documentaries. And people do, too. In all the surveys here, they’re asked — people are asked, time and again, “What do you want more of?” They don’t want more of the sort of bubble gum news that we get all over the world, the horrific tabloidization of the news. They want documentaries. They want something that will help them to make sense of the world.
AMY GOODMAN: And we hope that we can continue to bring that to people in the next millennium. We want to thank you, John Pilger, for joining us, as well as Manning Marable, Noam Chomsky, Frene Ginwala and Edward Said. That does it for today’s program. Special thanks to Kris Abrams and Terry Allen, our producers, Nell Geiser. Special thanks to Bernard White, Janice K. Bryant, [inaudible]. From the studios of the banned and the fired, the embattled studios of our listeners, I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, for another edition of Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! Keep the mail coming in at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like a copy of today’s show, 1-800-735-0230. That’s 1-800-735-0230. Monday, “A Shortcut Through the 21st Century.”