Supporters of the Green New Deal are launching a nationwide tour Thursday to build support for the congressional resolution to transform the U.S. economy through funding renewable energy while ending U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. Democracy Now! spoke with Noam Chomsky about the Green New Deal and the lessons of the old New Deal in Boston last week.
Amy Goodman: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. We end today’s show with the world-renowned linguist, political dissident Noam Chomsky. I spoke to him last week at the Old South Church in Boston. In a moment, we’ll hear Noam Chomsky talk about Russian meddling in the 2016 election and what the Mueller report found and didn’t find, which is being released today. But first, I asked Noam Chomsky to talk about the Green New Deal and the lessons of the old New Deal.
Noam Chomsky: First of all, I think the Green New Deal is exactly the right idea. You can raise questions about the specific form in which Ocasio-Cortez and Markey introduced it: Maybe it shouldn’t be exactly this way; it should be a little bit differently. But the general idea is quite right. And there’s very solid work explaining, developing in detail, exactly how it could work. So, a very fine economist at UMass Amherst, Robert Pollin, has written extensively on, in extensive detail, with close analysis of how you could implement policies of this kind in a very effective way, which would actually make a better society. It wouldn’t be that you’d lose from it; you’d gain from it. The costs of renewable energy are declining very sharply. If you eliminate the massive subsidies that are given to fossil fuels, they probably already surpass them. There are many means that can be implemented and carried out to overcome, certainly to mitigate, maybe to overcome, this serious crisis. So the basic idea is, I think, completely defensible—in fact, essential. A lot of the media commentary ridiculing this and that aspect of it are essentially beside the point. You can change the dates from 2030 to 2040, you can do a couple of other manipulations, but the basic idea is correct.
Well, what’s the difference from the 1930s? Several things. One thing that’s different is large-scale labor action. The 1930s were the period of the organization of the CIO. In the 1920s, the U.S. labor movement had been virtually destroyed. Remember, this is very much a business-run society. American labor history is very violent, quite unlike comparable countries. And by the 1920s, the quite effective, militant labor movement had been pretty much crushed. One of the great works of labor history, by David Montgomery, one of the great labor historians, is called The Rise and Fall of the American Labor Movement [The Fall of the House of Labor: The Workplace, the State, and American Labor Activism, 1865-1925]. He was talking about the 1920s, when it had essentially been destroyed. The 1930s, it revived. It revived with large-scale organizing activities. The CIO organizing began. The strike actions were quite militant. They led to sitdown strikes. A sitdown strike is a real sign of warning to the business classes, because there’s a step beyond a sitdown strike. The next step beyond a sitdown strike is: “Let’s start the factory by running it by ourselves. We don’t need the bosses. We can run it ourselves. So, get rid of them.” OK? That’s a real revolution, the kind that should take place. The participants in an enterprise would own and run it by themselves, instead of being the slaves of the private owners who control their lives. And a sitdown strike is a bare step away from that. That aroused real fear among the ownership classes.
Second element was there was a sympathetic administration, which is very critical. You look at the history of labor actions over the centuries—there’s a very good book on this, incidentally, by Erik Loomis, who studies—has a book called American History in Ten Strikes, or some similar name [A History of America in Ten Strikes], where he runs through the militant labor actions ever since the early 19th century. And he makes an interesting point. He says every successful labor action has had at least tacit support of the government. If the government and the ownership classes are unified in crushing labor action, they’ve always succeeded. OK? Very significant observation. And in the 1930s, there was a sympathetic administration, for many reasons. But that combination of militant labor action—it was a very lively political period in many ways—and a sympathetic administration did lead to the New Deal, which greatly changed people’s lives.