On Friday, March 14th at UCLA’s Neuroscience Research Building a large audience warmly received Dr. Noam Chomsky. IMED Seminars hosts a series of seminars, bringing prominent people from academic, science, and political spheres. On March 14th, they brought the MIT professor known as the “Father of Modern Linguistics,” a political dissident commentator, and a social activist.
He begun to talk about his early life and how he acquired his independent thinking, saying, “I was born during the Great Depression, in the 1930’s…seeing strikes and seeing cops beating up women striking from their factories.” The labor movement, part of his family, and anarchist book stores were important components to his radicalization and process of independent thinking, Chomsky added.
Chomsky also shared his college experience with UCLA students. At the age of 16 he attended Pennsylvania University, but after a year into college he was disillusioned with the strict curriculum of the university and almost quit until a professor introduced him to graduate courses in linguistics.
He talked about his perspective in linguistics and the means trough which knowledge was acquired during the scientific revolution up until today. He specially emphasized how humans acquire language.
[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” ]Seminar facilitator: “Which people in the political world do you respect?” [/box]
[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” ]Dr. Chomsky: “Most people who are in jail…most of the people in power have sociopathic behaviors”[/box]
Chomsky’s comment made the crowd explode into laughs and applauses, as they recognized his critical stands on power. What made him more critical on structures of power than average college professor was his sympathizing political views on anarchism. According to Chomsky, anarchism is the “dismantling of illegitimate systems of power,” like patriarchy or the state.
[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” ]Seminar facilitator: “Well let’s give him an opportunity, if you and Barack Obama switched places what will be the first thing you will do?”[/box]
[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” ]Dr. Chomsky: “First thing I will do is set up a panel to trail me for war crimes I have committed.”[/box]
The response is reflective of his critical views of U.S. foreign policy. He has written dozens of books and articles highlighting how the American government protects the interest of the socio-economic elite around the world through military and political manipulation, disregarding democracy, international laws, and human rights. He has also highlighted American’s involvement in supporting brutal dictators since the end of World War II.
To recent attempts of some students to have the UC divest from Israel, he commented: “Well, I think not just students but everyone has the responsibility to refrain from engaging in criminal activities and there is no doubt that the Israel occupation, the extreme repression, are all illegal activities, so is entirely proper to refrain from any participation [with Israel], with boycotting, posing sanctions and so on, as the European Union is doing right now.”
Regarding the appointment of Janet Napolitano as president of the UC, he disapproved her position and connected this problem to the immigration issue in the United States. “Undocumented immigrants, what are called ‘illegal immigrants’ aren’t coming because they love the United States. Most of them prefer to stay home. In Boston there is a big Maya population; their fleeing from Guatemala because that place was wiped out by a near genocidal assault backed by the United States.” A lot of them [undocumented immigrants] are victims of NAFTA… So first we make life impossible for people, and then when they flee to the rich countries they are treated as criminals.”
Noam Chomsky closed the seminar by warning that global warming and nuclear warfare ought to be stopped if we want a world in which decent human survival is possible for our children.
Three Chilean activists came to UCLA to share their experience as students and community organizers. The event was hosted by the Student Collective Against Labor Exploitation (SCALE) on Wednesday February the 26th. This visit is part of national-wide tour that started January 10th in Miami and that will end early March in San Diego.
Melissa Ferritto studied Social and Community and Psychology. She used her studies to investigate gender and discrimination issues, social and political participation. She is the founding member of the feminist organization La Alzada, Accion Feminista Libertaria which focuses on the creation of social action on feminist issues.
Pablo Abufom studied Philosophy in Universidad Arcis and earned his M.A. in Philosophy in Universidad de Chile. He is the founding member of Libreria Proyeccion, a library which has become a social center for student collectives, feminist groups, unions, and artist to congregate. He is also an academic English-to-Spanish translator.
Gabriel was a militant member of Frente de Estudiantes Libertarios. When he was a high school student, he participated in the 2005 secondary and university strikes. He also participated in various autonomous organizations in Argentina and Uruguay to coordinate efforts for social justice.
The tour was hosted by many grassroots community organizations in the United States, particularly, the Black Rose Federation, an anarchist nation-wide organization in the United States. “They invited us because they wanted to know about social movements in Chile… Personally, I also came to give the feminist perspective within the social movement,” said Melissa.
Pablo opened the panel saying, “To understand what is happening in Chile we need to go back to the dictatorship that we had since 1973 until 1990.”
On September 11, 1973 the Center of Intelligence Agency and the high levels of military command of the Chilean army orchestrated a coup against the government of the democratically elected and socialist President, Salvador Allende. The head of the post-Allende government, Agusto Pinochet, implemented a bloody dictatorship. His austerity measures allowed for the privatization of many social programs and services, including education.
Currently, Chilean students are demanding from the government quality and free education for all Chileans. They argue that the present conditions and laws that govern educational institutions do not differ from those of the dictatorship period. This has provoked a lot of protest and school occupations, which have lasted for months.
During 2006, around 600,000 secondary school students carried a series of manifestations–an event that was named the Penguin Revolution. In 2011, The Chilean Winter was a series of protests and strikes coordinated by student unions and federations to demand a change in the frame-work of public education.
According to Gabriel, these student mobilizations are due to the student’s acknowledgement that education is a social right, contrasting it to the way government sees education as “a service, that it (is) something that you buy, that you sell,” Gabriel said.
The panelists also talked about the creation of popular power and the anarchist movement in Chile. Anarchism “is the understanding that we have a very strong critique about society, the system of capitalism; and that we need go further into a society ,a society that can be equal and free,” said Gabriel.
Melissa highlighted that important leadership positions in the student federations are being taken by members of the anarchist student organization Frente Estudiantil Libertario.
Janel Preciado, a second year, biochemistry major, and a member of SCALE said that the organization brought the three panelists to UCLA because “it (would) be a good opportunity to learn from what they experience, and how we can do that in the United States.”