Chomsky on his Hanoi speech (polemic with Sidney Hook)

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GM_Flash

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Sep 10, 2003, 6:21:14 PM9/10/03
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There's been some discussion recently on this newsgroup about
Chomsky's April 13, 1970 speech at Hanoi, which aired over Radio Hanoi
the next day. In it, Chomsky praised North Vietnamese society along
with a book by Ho Chi Minh's successor and Communist party leader Le
Duan. He said,

"The people of Vietnam will win, they must win, because your cause is
the cause of humanity as it moves forward toward liberty and justice,
toward the socialist society in which free, creative men control their
own destiny."

A full transcript of the speech is available at:

http://no-treason.com/Starr/3.html

In his memoir Out of Step (pp. 592-94), the late social philosopher
Sidney Hook discusses an extended polemic (from Sept. 1970 to April
1971) he had with Chomsky in the pages of The Humanist, in which the
topic of this speech arose. I was at the library the other day and I
tracked down the exchanges and read them.

(I'll provide some context for the debate below; those interested in
the Hanoi speech can skip ahead.)

Their polemic occurred at a time of massive unrest and even violence
on campuses, and Hook was involved with an organization called the
Center for Rational Alternatives, which called upon universities "to
defend academic freedom against extremism, to promote the activism of
nonextremists in all aspects of civic affairs, to foster rational
treatment of contemporary problems, and to combat attacks on the
democratic process." Chomsky wrote an article insinuating that the
organization was "vicious," "dangerous" and could promote "repression"
("The Student Movement", The Humanist, September-October 1970). He
said that Hook and his colleagues were ignoring the real reasons for
student agitation and violence (Vietnam, racial issues etc.) and that
what violence did occur was committed by a minority. He also added
that any violence was trivial compared to violence committed by the US
elite both at home and abroad.

Hook replied that Chomsky was paranoid, and that the Center for
Rational Alternatives took no political stands and was only opposed to
the politicization of universities ("The Political Fantasies of Noam
Chomsky", The Humanist, November-December 1970). They did not oppose
student protest and radicalism but the use of violence and
intimidation such as fire bombings, vandalism and assault that were
impairing universities' ability to teach. Speaking of Chomsky, he
said:

"An even more striking sign of political paranoia is to charge any one
who disagrees on a basic issue with intellectual bankruptcy or even
criminal insanity. The unpersuaded are knaves or fools, maniacs or
idiots, or totally wicked. The paranoiac cannot conceive that men with
good will and good judgement can differ with him on complex matters of
social policy... Speaking for myself alone, I find that politically
Chomsky's judgements are as extreme as they are foolish and
one-sided."

Chomsky replied with personal attacks of his own, calling Hook a liar:
"Sidney Hook's comments are not untypical of his writings on social
and political issues. When the misrepresentations, errors of fact, and
fallacious arguments are cleared away, nothing remains but a stream of
invective"; "Hook... begins, as usual, with an outright lie"
("Response to Sidney Hook", The Humanist, January-February 1971).

The argument continued with Hook's rejoinder ("The Knight of the
Double Standard", Jan-Feb 1971), Chomsky's reply ("Response to Sidney
Hook II", March-April 1971) and Hook's final word ("The Knight Comes a
Cropper", March-April 1971).

------------------------

Regarding the Hanoi speech:

Hook said he was against US intervention in Vietnam, but opposed a
precipitate withdrawal, which would probably result in a bloodbath
(Chomsky said it wouldn't, and that even if it did it wouldn't be
comparable to the bloodbath that was already occurring under US
supervision). Hook criticized Chomsky for attacking the US and its
allies like South Vietnam as genocidal, while refusing to denounce the
policies of e.g., North Vietnam, which he praised. Hook cited
Chomsky's April 13, 1970 Hanoi speech as an example of this.

Chomsky replied that as to "Vietnam, I have several times discussed
the 'violent and destructive' land reform" ("Response to Sidney Hook
II", cited above). He added that the evidence that the North
Vietnamese weren't in the South at the time of the US "invasion" was

"overwhelming, well-known, and unrefuted... The first battalion of
North Vietnamese troops in South Vietnam was reportedly detected there
two and a half months after the initiation of the regular bombardment
of North and South Vietnam, at a time when 35,000 American troops were
deployed (direct American engagement in bombing, strafing, and
defoliation had been underway for years). See, for example, Cooper's
memoirs, which confirm reports from the Pentagon and Senator
Mansfield."

Then he addressed his Hanoi speech directly:

"... he [Hook] does not refer to my writings on the subject, but to a
two-minute talk*** that I gave before a public meeting in Hanoi a few
hours after returning from a trip of several days through the
devastated countryside- under the emotional impact, which I described,
and which still persists, of the rubble of cities and villages, the
cratered landscape, the courage and dedication of workers in factories
hidden in caves, peasants in cooperatives, teachers and students,
elected village officials, health workers in villages, all those who
'work with pride and with dignity to build a society of material
prosperity, social justice, and cultural progress' in the midst of the
ravages of war that 'we have not been able to stop,' to our
everlasting shame. Their heroism, I said, can serve as a model for
decent people everywhere; it 'reveals the capabilities of the human
spirit and the human will.' Hook protests that in these brief remarks
there was no denunciation of the DRV. That is correct. The suggestion
is monstrous, and would be so even if the DRV resembled his fevered
imaginings. I presume that this is obvious enough so that no further
comment is required."

*** To this Hook replied: "Not even a linguist can utter some 800
words in two minutes under the stress of strong emotion. It was a
carefully prepared speech!" ("The Knight Comes a Cropper", cited
above).

Given that Chomsky himself quotes directly from the Hanoi speech as
transcribed in the link above, I think we can put to rest the notion
that this speech is inauthentic or that Chomsky was unaware of its
existence when asked about it on Zmag's forums.

For those interested in Chomsky's contribution to the Vietnam War
debate, I have transcribed the remainder of his remarks below.

"As to what socialism with a Vietnamese face might become, given half
a chance, we can only speculate. Recall that, in 1954, Bernard Fall
predicted certain disaster (famine or Chinese colonization) if the DRV
were separated from the South. The U.S. accomplished this, but the
predicted disaster did not occur. Agricultural production rose, and,
after a miserable start, land reform proceeded quite successfully, so
far as is known. The basis for industrialization was laid, later to be
destroyed by the American attack. In the South, American sources admit
that the NLF success derived largely from the attractiveness of their
programs for a rural society, not from terror (which, in any event,
did not compare to that of the Saigon regime, or to that of the
Americans, which dwarfs all else). And the NLF regarded 'massed
military might' as 'illegitimate' until forced by the Americans and
the Saigon regime 'to use counterforce to survive' (Pike). For some
evidence on these matters, from hostile but knowledgeable sources,
see, for example, [Robert L.] Sansom, Economics of Insurgency and
[Jeffrey] Race, "How They Won", Asian Survey, August 1970. The
American attack on the socioeconomic structures of the NLF (and the
Pathet Lao) was a response to this success, and what Hook calls the
'unintended consequences' of this military action make it quite
difficult to evaluate what might have been achieved, if the U.S. were
to abandon its efforts to dominate South Vietnam, as, at the moment,
seems quite unlikely."

Nathan Folkert

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Sep 10, 2003, 10:35:18 PM9/10/03
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flash...@yahoo.com (GM_Flash) wrote in message news:<b3fac8be.03091...@posting.google.com>...

> There's been some discussion recently on this newsgroup about
> Chomsky's April 13, 1970 speech at Hanoi, which aired over Radio Hanoi
> the next day. In it, Chomsky praised North Vietnamese society along
> with a book by Ho Chi Minh's successor and Communist party leader Le
> Duan. He said,

Not so fast.

Can we really be certain that it was Chomsky writing in the pages of
the Humanist? The "quotes" you gave, while perhaps better quality
forgeries than the so-called "speech" recorded by the FBIS, probably
have been altered or fabricated by CIA COINTELPRO stooges trying to
defame Chomsky.

I cannot prove this, but I can try to take it on blind faith in order
to protect my fragile political illusion that Chomsky is an anarchist,
not a Stalinist symp.

Can I get some help here building a complex and outlandish
rationalization that will support this bizarre conclusion? Aren't
there some "atypical phrases" we can find in there?

Clore?

[snip]

- Nate

GM_Flash

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Sep 11, 2003, 1:15:57 AM9/11/03
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nfol...@cs.stanford.edu (Nathan Folkert) wrote in message news:<4b923300.03091...@posting.google.com>...

:-)

Well, I don't recall seeing Chomsky use the verb 'dwarfs' before. Not
very politically correct nowadays, is it?

Here are some more of Hook's observations in The Humanist:

"Even when Chomsky is right about some matter, his manner is so often
contemptuous of those who dare differ with him as to raise larger
moral questions to the point of issue."

"... to shout 'Liar!' on almost ever occasion of disagreement violates
the proprieties that condition rational discourse (cf. my 'The Ethics
of Controversy,' New Leader, February 1, 1954)."

"[The] level and tone of his criticism... [is] reminiscent of the
Bolshevist-Leninist method of conducting political polemics. Its
confessed object was not merely to refute an opponent but to destroy
him as an enemy by attacking his credibility and moral integrity."

And one from his memoir Out of Step:

"It [the polemic with Chomsky] had its amusing sides and brought back
memories of the days when I was denounced as a counterrevolutionary
reptile by the Communist press.

...

Future historians will find this set of articles both beguiling and a
sign of the times. And readers, if any, who have gotten this far,
might find some entertainment in the exchange."

To which I can only add that Hook was indeed a prescient man.

Dan Clore

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Sep 11, 2003, 9:05:48 AM9/11/03
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GM_Flash wrote:
>
> There's been some discussion recently on this newsgroup about
> Chomsky's April 13, 1970 speech at Hanoi, which aired over Radio Hanoi
> the next day. In it, Chomsky praised North Vietnamese society along
> with a book by Ho Chi Minh's successor and Communist party leader Le
> Duan. He said,
>
> "The people of Vietnam will win, they must win, because your cause is
> the cause of humanity as it moves forward toward liberty and justice,
> toward the socialist society in which free, creative men control their
> own destiny."
>
> A full transcript of the speech is available at:
>
> http://no-treason.com/Starr/3.html
>
> In his memoir Out of Step (pp. 592-94), the late social philosopher
> Sidney Hook discusses an extended polemic (from Sept. 1970 to April
> 1971) he had with Chomsky in the pages of The Humanist, in which the
> topic of this speech arose. I was at the library the other day and I
> tracked down the exchanges and read them.

[snip]

[snip]

Well, finally. This looks like good enough confirmation of
the speech's authenticity. It even explains why the speech
is so uncharacteristic and atypical: it was written right
after a profound emotional experience that lasted several
days. The fact remains, though, that it still does not
contain the alleged incriminating material.

--
Dan Clore

Now available: _The Unspeakable and Others_
http://www.wildsidepress.com/index2.htm
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1587154838/thedanclorenecro
Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/9879/
News for Anarchists & Activists:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo

"It's a political statement -- or, rather, an
*anti*-political statement. The symbol for *anarchy*!"
-- Batman, explaining the circle-A graffiti, in
_Detective Comics_ #608

Dan Clore

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Sep 11, 2003, 9:16:27 AM9/11/03
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GM_Flash wrote:
> nfol...@cs.stanford.edu (Nathan Folkert) wrote in message news:<4b923300.03091...@posting.google.com>...
> > flash...@yahoo.com (GM_Flash) wrote in message news:<b3fac8be.03091...@posting.google.com>...

> Well, I don't recall seeing Chomsky use the verb 'dwarfs' before. Not


> very politically correct nowadays, is it?

Try harder:

"Any favors Clinton might owe to Florida growers are dwarfed
by the requirements of the telecommunications industry . .
."

"But despite this enormous media barrage and the government
attack and huge amounts of corporate lobbying
(which totally dwarfed all the other lobbying, of course),
the level of opposition remained pretty stable."

"The US International Trade Commission estimates that US
companies stand to gain $61 billion a year
from the Third World if "intellectual property" rights are
protected in accord with US demands, a cost to
the South of somewhere between $100-300 billion when
extrapolated to the other industrial countries,
dwarfing the debt service flow of capital from South to
North."

"But nevertheless, despite this enormous media barrage and
the government attack and huge
corporate lobbying, which totally dwarfed anything else, of
course, despite that the level of opposition
remained pretty stable."

"The US International Trade Commission estimates that US
companies stand to gain $61 billion a year
from the Third World if "intellectual property" rights are
protected in accord with US demands, a cost to
the South of somewhere between $100-300 billion when
extrapolated to the other industrial countries,
dwarfing the debt service flow of capital from South to
North."

etc.

GM_Flash

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Sep 11, 2003, 1:36:29 PM9/11/03
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Dan Clore <cl...@columbia-center.org> wrote in message news:<3F6075AB...@columbia-center.org>...

I stand corrected. ;-)

Nathan Folkert

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Sep 11, 2003, 4:18:37 PM9/11/03
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flash...@yahoo.com (GM_Flash) wrote in message news:<b3fac8be.03091...@posting.google.com>...

[snip]

> Here are some more of Hook's observations in The Humanist:

How did Hook introduce the speech into his piece? How did he describe
it? I'm curious what exactly Chomsky was responding to.

[snip]

- Nate

GM_Flash

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Sep 13, 2003, 2:12:08 AM9/13/03
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nfol...@cs.stanford.edu (Nathan Folkert) wrote in message news:<4b923300.03091...@posting.google.com>...

Hi Nate. I'm afraid I don't recall the exact context (the entire
series of exchanges is pretty long; it took me about 2 hours to read
them in the library, having to jot down by hand parts I thought
relevant since I forget to bring change for the copy machine), but I
believe Chomsky stated in his original piece how any student violence
stemmed from real problems Hook and his colleagues were ignoring, such
as the US oppression of poor peasants in Vietnam. And in his response,
after answering Chomsky's charges about the Center for Rational
Alternatives, Hook made a critique of Chomsky and other radicals for
their double standard towards the US and its enemies, which is how the
topic of the Hanoi speech arose; Hook cited it as an example of the
double standard.

Here's Hook in Out of Step:

"After I made it clear that Chomsky's aspersions against the UCRA were
without substance, I presented my own personal criticism- for which
UCRA as an organization took no responsibility- of Chomsky's political
judgements, which were echoed on many campuses. Although there was
much to criticize in American domestic and foreign policy, what struck
me was the one-sidedness, unfairness, and systematic use of the double
standard in the attacks against the United States and South Vietnam.
This was illustrated in almost every question Chomsky touches on. He
denounces Kennedy's policy in the missle crisis as 'criminally insane'
but has not a critical word to say about Khruschev introducing the
missiles into Cuba. He called upon the United States 'to denazify
itself' but not North Vietnam or China... On his visit to Hanoi,
Chomsky publicly held North Vietnam up to the world as a model of
social justice and freedom... Chomsky uttered not one word of
criticism of the regime of terrorism that countenanced even less
dissent than the Kremlin. Even worse, despite what happened at Hue and
elsewhere, he indentified the cause of Vietnam with 'the cause of


humanity as it moves forward toward liberty and justice, toward the
socialist society in which free, creative men control their own

destiny.' ... The grim consequences of that [i.e. US] withdrawal and
of Hanoi's victory are now incontestable. The record of the last
decade [Hook wrote his memoir in the late 80s] has brought a
realization to some, who had been of the same view as Chomsky, of what
they helped to bring into being in Vietnam. Protests have been
organized [against human rights abuses]... But Chomsky is still
unrepentant. He has refused to join any protest, on the ground that it
would serve the interests of the United States. In short, he has
followed the double standard to the last, for he never hesitated to
utter the most extravagant criticism of the United States on the
ground that it would serve the interests of the Soviet Union" (pp.
593-94).

This pretty much gels with my recollection of the debate.

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