I may have inadvertently been telling a little bit of a lie when claiming that none of my books give me reason to look back and cringe. This one does only partially because of the content, but mostly because of the political point in my life that it brought me to.
3 Noam Chomsky - Pirates and Emperors
This probably could´ve been any of Chomsky´s back catalogue, largely because it´s a pretty repetitive sort of canon. The pattern is thus, Noam thoroughly chronicles the attempts of the United States government to overthrow and undermine democracies that try to assert any kind of meaningful independence from Washington directed global capitalism, doing so not on the basis of any spurious conspiracy theories, or with reference to the high standards of some Utopian fantasy land, but on the basis of their own documents and their own declared policy goals.
It´s incredibly effective stuff, and you only have to look at that truly feeble counter-arguments ranged against him to see that. Critiques flit around the edges of his work, making absurd claims as to his support for the Khmer Rouge (this attack involves deliberately misunderstanding the nature of his work) and various other things related to his sometimes naive notion of free speech.
After reading his books as a young adult/older teenager, it gave me a solid rational for my feelings about Empire and all that, which raised me above the previous stage of rebellious teenager.
On the other hand, and I suspect this qualifies as a criticism of the work and not just of my 19 year old self, it did feed into my nascent Stalinism. As a kid I was so fed up of being given the whole ´commies bad, capitalism good´mantra that I developed a knee-jerk reaction that said whatever I was told in official history, must in fact be the opposite. This eventually transformed itself into complex (but quite effective) apologies for Stalinist terror, most drawing on the idea that the Robert Conquest/CIA school of history inflated the figures (this is, in fact, true, though not really an excuse for the millions of people who died nevertheless).
That´s the limitations of Noam´s work as a whole, however much he understands intellectually that as an anarchist he doesn´t support 3rd world nationalism, Stalinism or anything like that, such is the nature of his work, understanding and comprehending the actions of nation states within their own logic, you can´t help emerging with a sneaking sympathy for the Jacobo Arbenz or the Sandinistas or Patrice Lumumba; basically admiration for social democrats with links to various Left-Wing dictatorships. Combined with the natural sympathy that American anarchists and far leftists feel for anyone that opposes their government, it´s not hard to come out the other side tragically drawing a hammer and sickle on all your school books.
So, this one was definitely part of the journey, but thankfully a place from which I have now moved on!
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