An excerpt from the question and answer session from Noam Chomsky lecture MANUFACTURING CONSENT: THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF THE MASS MEDIA, delivered on March 15, 1989, at the Wisconsin Union Theater on the Madison campus of the University of Wisconsin. The lecture was sponsored by the Wisconsin Union Directorates 1988-89 Distinguished Lecture Series. The entire lecture, along with the complete question and answer session, is available at the pdxjustice Media Productions website at


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48 thoughts on “Noam Chomsky – What Was Leninism?, March 15th, 1989”

  1. He's omitting that there was a World War to break, and a czarist counter-revolution to stop ….. and that this was the only thing that achieved both goals.

  2. I question whether the woman in question had done more than a superficial reading of the Russian Revolution…You better know you’re s**t if you’re going to call out Chomsky..and Chomsky owns her in his analysis.

  3. Loved her question and delivery. Gosh, people seem to have been smarter 30 years ago. I agree with Chomsky. Stalinism was a natural development of Leninism. And what they have been building in USSR had noting to do with Socialism. It was State run enterprise, which is really not distinguishable from fascism (fascism sans nationalism). Workers/peasants were enslaved by the state. With immense apparatus of fierce enforcement of party doctrine and weeding of undesirables. Lenin had hijacked popular Marxist movement and used it to his advantage of usurping the total power. He showed his true colors with "Red Terror" that followed the Revolution and when he ordered Red Army to drown Kronstadt rebels in blood. USSR managed to make a boogie man out of "socialism" and "communism". Stalin took the baton from Lenin's feeble hands.
    Meanwhile Nordic countries have been quietly practicing what one could call socialism for the last 70 years.

  4. But he didn't really answer the question. What is the path to resisting capitalism in the real world? Lenin's suggestions have produced the best results. Spontaneous movements like the Arab spring, OWS, they fizzle out because they can't repel the pending onslaught. Real parties with organization capable of fending off violent capitalist armies is the only actual way to survive. Free speech is great, but if castro allows the cia to exploit that and fund opposition hes a dead man and the whole thing will collapse. Its easy for chomsky to criticize real world leninists for their repression but they have produced the most real world success and have exhibited an impressive ability to survive against the armies of the world. Chomsky's general criticism doesn't change the fact that Russia went from being the poorest country in Europe to the world's second leading economic power, no homelessness, doubling of life expectancy, sky high literacy, the top space program even at some points, increasing caloric intake even to surpass the us. Astonishing achievements. Read michael parenti who wrote Manufacturing Consent before chomsky did (Inventing Reality). Chomsky is great, but hes wrong to side with the bourgeois press in this case.

  5. Putin an ex-KGB agent who was born and brought up in USSR doesn't like Leninism Stalinism or Communism, whereas Noam Chomsky from UK a monarchy wants it. I think we must listen to Putin.

  6. Stalinism is the implementation of Leninism. It’s not a separate paradigm. Critique it fully but remember, if it wasn’t for the decisions made by Stalin during the early years of the USSR, we would all be speaking German and most of us would be enslaved or killed

  7. An exceptionally intelligent and brilliant man who's analytical power is just astronomical. More respect to him because he comes clean with not pretenses and unnecessary rhetorical jibes to secure applauses. All this explanation and at the end when most people pause to get applauded, he moves to another question how swiftly.

  8. I re-watch this at least once a month to remind myself how to conduct yourself when debunking an assumption and educating without condescension.
    And Chomsky is the best.

  9. "Lebinism is when Ebil gommunists actually take sdate bower afder rebolution and good gommunism is when you only write book and talk like you are radical or when gommunist rebolution fail cus dey don't take Sdate powah and get massacred by Fascist Franco Sdate
    Vote Biden
    :)))) "

  10. i could never quite put my finger on why chomsky is wrong in his conclusions so often. its cause he looks at politics in a hostile 1d thinking, and even after he takes control of the mainstream he still acts like he is some underdog.

  11. Coming from a Russian as a message to the west .. Marxism socialism Leninism, these destructive political ideologies will never work !! Ever !! And the reason for that is much deeper then just presenting a political system that is morally attractive to the human suffering. One has to understand human nature to acknowledge the fact that Marxist socialist concepts can never be applied to human nature. That’s why it never worked anywhere and never will. Those who don’t follow God‘s laws will fall sooner or later Just like the Soviet union did

  12. This is very helpful in understanding what Leninism was. I think it would also be helpful to understand why Lenin and Trotsky took the course they did. I don't know why. But it seems to me that the success of their revolution should have lessons for us, being the most wildly successful. However divergent from actual socialism it might have been, I wonder if it could have been otherwise.

  13. It's impressive that this guy, who wrote so extensively about controlled opposition in the media, is not recognized by his readers as controlled opposition… He works at the CIA/DOD factory that is MIT. Were he actually a threat he would have been removed long ago, whether with threats of violence, a campaign of slander (accusations of rape or corruption from anonymous sources etc.) or otherwise removed using the myriad of tactics that COINTELPRO was famous for.
    He spends most of his time herding people into electoralism (vote Hilary, vote Biden), defending the right of Nazis and fascists to free speech, and consistently takes the time to denigrate and slander actually existing socialist projects, not in good faith, but in order to discredit socialism in its actually existing form. I say this as someone who's first introduction to 'leftism' was Chomsky's lectures and especially his book on power and manufactured consent. He is no comrade.

  14. Chomsky's analysis is typical for reasoning from definitions of concepts, i.e., rationalism, with little to no regard for whether these concepts have anything to do with reality or not. Socialism understood as workers' ownership of the means of production is such a floating abstraction. It exists only in Plato's realm of perfect forms.

    This notion of a policy based on common ownership of the means of production rests on another floating abstraction, namely on a notion that the economy is evenly rotating, i.e., perfect competition, i.e., information, knowledge, preferences, incentives, etc are evenly distributed among people.
    The workers will, to their horror, find out that the economy is far from evenly rotating should they get rid of all business-men and take over the means of production themselves. In the absence of business-men prices would start to jump up and down, shortages would occur, they would be faced with an uncertain future in the form of profit and loss, which mean that many of them, or even most of them, would trade an uncertain future of profit and loss, with a certain future in the form of a wage (a wage is a guaranteed payment for work done regardless of whether the product is sold or not). In other words, over time, most workers would sell out their share in the company and become wage-earners.

    So, if Lenin had left the economy and the workers to themselves, they would have developed capitalism. Since a development like that is out of the question, socialism, regardless of nominal definitions, will always be state ownership of the means of production in real life.

  15. I've re-watched this clip so many times – a masterclass in answering a question fully, accurately and without resorting to hyperbole and rhetoric.

  16. The questioner was absolutely amazing! I do agree with Chomsky. But the intelectual respect showed by his questioner is something that is lacking nowadays. Unfortunaly today, when you don't agree with the speaker, you try to make him shut up, instead of challenging them with your ideas.

  17. Chomsky is a poo-poo talk person, he literally got everything wrong.
    Critics of Lenin said he was Ultra-Left because mainstream "Marxists" were social-democrats in Russia. Lenin wrote "State and Revolution" actually in response to the social-democrats.
    People in the US seem to lick Chomsky's tits, but forget Michael Parenti, which is a highly educated philosopher, historian and academic writer, having written about mass media in his book, Inventing Reality, years before Chomsky wrote "Manufacturing Consent".

  18. Now I'm new to this history, but it seems pretty unfair to say Lenin's shift away from libertarianism as purely opportunistic. The Soviet union was facing such heavy opposition from global powers and surrounding nations (not to mention the world had just experienced the greatest show of force between nations in the history of man), and the parties view that the revolution/coup was in a really volatile place. There's an important difference between Lenin and the Bolsheviks seizing power to "whip the peasants into shape" because they thought of their lifestyle as inferior as Chomsky implies, and seizing power because they consider the peasantry unable to defend the revolution or structure the organization of a large-scale socialist economy. I hate commodity production as much as the next guy, but just cause the Bolsheviks saw Vanguardism as necessary doesn't mean they're antisocialists just as those advocating for centralized socialism aren't necessarily anti-communist. Wether that was a move that doomed the revolution to repression or was a necessary choice ¯_(ツ)_/¯
    But who knows maybe it was all to insure the proletariat kept a steady supply of beard trimming technology available for Lenin to maintain his exquisite style

  19. Lenin may have been a Jew, but his ideas can be very useful to us today. Stalinism is the best way to go if you include aspects of Maoism (specifically the cultural revolution or better, a cultural counter-revolution)

  20. Why should the workers own the means of production? Who paid for the means of production? Who risked their own money to start the business? Are the workers not compensated by their pay? Who doesn’t get paid when business is slow? For such a smart guy, Chomsky doesn’t seem very wise to me.

  21. I looked this up after hearing Chris Hedges on "Useful Idiots" say he agrees with Chomsky that Lenin was a counter-revolutionary, and I gotta say… it makes a lot of sense. If you'd asked me yesterday I'd have said that any socialist potential in the USSR died with Lenin, but this points the finger even earlier, at the moment Lenin seized power.

  22. arrogant, ignorant, incompetent, brainless, clueless and absolutely USELESS! quite an entertaining venue for the WORTHLESS idiots of society. the best thing to do is let these immoral, un-ethical, and God-less liberal facist communist narcissists eat each other to oblivion and die on the vine.

  23. Suspiciously convenient to hold Socialism untainted by separating the brutality and calling it rightist. Chomsky should explain how leftist Marxism (Socialism) could have survived and thrived without brutal elements that seem necessary to shape human natural tendencies (selfishness) into submission.

  24. And, Capitalism – to produce and exchange for a profit – has been the Natural Order for many 1000s of years, long before Capitalism was given a name.

  25. Capitalism is not perfect but it's the best thing Man has come up with so far. if you don't want to be an oppressed worker, go out there, make something of yourself, and start an enterprise. it's still a free country.

  26. hes hopelssly utopian but he has a point lenin was about as left wing as mussolini or hitler they all ended up in the same place a pool of blood surrounded by millions of rotting corpses

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