Tuesday, January 04, 2005

What is impossible...

Continuing the theme of interogating impossiblism, I came across this instructive piece on Noam Chomsky's 'blog', on his views on conscription:
I might add, for what it’s worth, that although I was actively involved in organizing and supporting resistance (including support for draft resisters) in the 60s, and was saved from a likely prison sentence only by the Tet offensive, I was never opposed to the draft. If there is to be an army, it would be best, I think, for it to be mainly a citizen’s army. In part for the reasons that the top command oppose that option.
A more concise distinction with the impossiblist position couldn'tbe clearer. Chomsky has long been a practitioner of radical pragmatism, he, after all, called for a Kerry vote in states where the election was close (though I suspect voted Nader in Liberal Massachusets where he lives, kinda like the old SWPers in the UK advocating a vote for Labour but themselves voting Communist).

I've heard talks where hje will say something along the lines of 'well, back then, in the nineteenth century, folks talked of abolishing the wages system, but that's not on the cards now, so we should' fight for whatever social-democrat reform is available.

hence his view on the draft, if we are going to have armies, then they should be citizens armies. He attempts to further flesh this vew out here, likening it to the concept of parcelling out the dirty work:
Then conscription is not a violation of basic human rights any more than parcelling out other unpleasant work equitably is. Say garbage collection. In a decent society it shouldn’t be “volunteer” in the sense that it’s undertaken only by people who are driven to it by need. Rather, it should be equitably distributed—which one can call “conscription” if one likes.
This solicits two impossiblist reposts.

First, we do not want an army, and should not counternance the ill of an army in any way and should work to abolish the conditions that give rise to armies. It is not enough to accept that they exist and that conditions are not ripe for their removal, that is a passive approach. Humans make history, and it is for us to drive towards the end of the waste of militarism in any form.

Secondly, I have had epic size battles over rota-ing the dirty work, and my fundamental belief that it wouldn't work. Largely, because the idea of 'from each according to ability' indicates that not everyone can do the same work, and very likely certain jobs will fall heaviest on those who feel the social duty or the burden of ensuring they get done and are able to do them. Surely our goal is the emancipation of labour, not the universalisation of enslavement. If we assume a rational free community, then we need not assume even the compulsion of handing out work to everyone, but the simple recognition of necessity by the members of that community.

We have here to strands of impossiblism, hopefully dem,onstated by contradictinction with a radical possiblist.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its a shame that Frederick Engels appears to share similar views to Chomsky .
" Universal conscription is the necessary and natural corollary of universal suffrage; it puts the voters in the position of being able to enforce their decisions gun in hand against any attempt at a coup d'état " -- Prussian Military Question and the German Workers Party
But wasn't Engels nicknamed "The General" by the Marx family due to his obsession with militarism ??

10:04 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Indeed, and I've met German left-wingers who defend military slavery tehre as a way of preventing the military falling into the hands of rightwingers who are more militaristically inclined.

Further, though, there is the distinction that can be drawn between a citizen's militia and a conscript standing army that Chomsky also doesn't draw on...

10:09 AM  

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