An Interview with Noam Chomsky
THE TRUMP PRESIDENCY
During the last U.S. election, you had warned that the “world should be utterly terrified of a Donald Trump presidency”. Now he occupies the White House. His policies and pronouncements represent a combination of white supremacy and the corporate agenda. Some have even called him a “monster” in the White House. What is the danger that he poses, not only to the U.S. but also to the world? How is he “different” from his predecessors in office?
The single most dramatic example is Trump’s stand on global warming, a truly existential crisis. The rest of the world is taking at least some steps towards addressing the very serious threat; not enough, but at least something. And the same is true of some States and localities within the U.S. But under Trump, with the general support of the Republican establishment, the federal government, the most powerful force in world history, has not only withdrawn from these efforts but is actively seeking to accelerate the race to destruction. That is an astounding fact, as is the limited attention to it. But the wrecking ball is reaching far beyond.
Trump’s declaration and recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital seems to be a big blow to the peace process and resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. What message is Trump signalling? What caused such a sudden decision? How would it affect the efforts for an amicable solution in the region?
Unfortunately, there is not much of a “peace process” even without this further blow, undertaken, I presume, largely for domestic political reasons. Much of Trump’s political base and funders are passionate supporters of Israel’s illegal expansion into the West Bank.
Earlier you wrote that the U.S. power was declining globally. If that is the case, what are the structural changes happening in the international political landscape? Are we moving towards a multipolar world?
American national power reached its (historically unprecedented) peak at the end of the Second World War. That began to erode soon with what is called “the loss of China”, which had major effects on the world scene. As other industrial societies recovered from wartime devastation and decolonisation took its agonising course, global society became more diverse. By the early 1970s, the core of the global economy was becoming tripolar: U.S.-based North America, German-based Europe, and Japan-based north-east Asia, already the most dynamic region. And there has been further erosion particularly since the rise of China, by now the world’s largest economy by some realistic measures—though still a poor country with severe internal problems. In some dimensions, notably military, the U.S. remains supreme. And it should also be borne in mind that with the globalisation of the international economy, national accounts are less significant than before. Thus, while the U.S’ share of global domestic product is estimated at less than 20 per cent, U.S.-based firms control about half the world’s wealth. All of this is, of course, only a surface view of a complex picture.
In almost all parts of the world we see an alarming growth of right-wing forces, such as the Tea Party movement in the U.S., the Sangh Parivar forces in India, Marine Le Pen’s Nationalist Front in France and various Islamist forces in different countries. The Marxist thinker Professor Samir Amin explains this growth as the phenomenon of “the return of fascism in contemporary capitalism”. Do you share this fear that fascist ascendency is on the horizon?
Like most terms of political discourse, the term “fascism” is imprecise. By now it has taken on the connotation of utterly abominable, as is natural given the practices of the fascist regimes and organisations. Long ago, the term was used in a more precise technical sense, for example, by the outstanding Veblenite political economist Robert Brady, who described the state of capitalist societies quite generally as having fascist tendencies through the 1930s. By now the term may be more misleading than instructive.