Matt Peppe: Do you believe the progressive gains made in Venezuela over the last 15 years by the Bolivarian Revolution are in danger of being rolled back after the United Social Party of Venezuela’s recent electoral defeat? Have the people of Venezuela, like Nicaragua in 1990, succumbed to imperialism’s subversion and economic sabotage?
Noam Chomsky: It’s true that the US has been trying to undermine the Bolivarian project from the start, and there is some economic sabotage (and huge capital flight). But I don’t think that’s the source of the problem. Rather, it was undermined by incompetence, corruption, the inherent problem of trying to create a social revolution from above, and the complete failure to shift the economy from oil-based to more diversified, so when oil prices crashed it all fell apart. In the vote, the opposition didn’t gain much. The landslide came from chavista abstention, in disgust about what has happened since Chavez died. The future is unpredictable.
Matt Peppe: You support voluntary socialism, similar to what existed in many traditional societies. Karl Polyani writes that in such socioeconomic systems, certain factors were necessary for their successful operation: “Custom and law, magic and religion cooperated in inducing the individual to comply with rules of behavior which, eventually, ensured his functioning in the economic system.” There have now been more than 200 years capitalist dominance, and neoliberal globalization is the rule across most of the world. The omnipresence of this capitalist ideology has created a perceived right to unlimited accumulation, and normalized individual gain at the expense of the rest of society. Would it be possible in such an environment to return to a state of voluntary socialism?
Matt Peppe: Is it possible to prevent governments from using the criminal justice system for social control and to punish political dissidence?
MP: American presidential candidates today such as Donald Trump, who wants to ban Muslims from entering the country, and Ben Carson, who says he would kill thousands of civilians to carry out a war, unabashedly appeal to anti-democratic sentiments. This is authoritarianism, if not outright fascism. How severe is this fascist undercurrent in American politics by historical comparison, and at what point would it render a functional parliamentary political system impossible?
Matt Peppe: Do you believe Lincoln justified in waging war on the South to preserve the Union? Was he personally responsible for the atrocities that ensued on the part of his Army, such as Sherman’s March to the Sea, as such atrocities are an inevitable product of any war?