Noam Chomsky and the Left: Allies or Strange Bedfellows?

Anjan Basu in The Wire:

A couple of days before he was scheduled to discuss, on the platform of the Tata Literary Festival 2020, his recent book Internationalism or Extinction, a group of India’s social and political activists wrote an open letter to Noam Chomsky in which they suggested that he boycott the festival. They cited the less-than-wholesome credentials of the festival’s sponsors, the Tatas, in the matter of human rights and apropos of how they ran their businesses. The activists reminded Chomsky that the Tatas’ business empire had expanded over the years by ruthlessly displacing – with active help from the Indian state, and often with brute force – vast tribal communities from their traditional habitats in several Indian provinces. They also talked about open-cast mining and other deleterious business practices the Tatas continued to pursue in flagrant disregard of environmental concerns. By lending his formidable name and his enormous prestige to the festival, the activists believed, Chomsky would only help “erase their (the Tatas’) crimes from public consciousness”.

Noam Chomsky responded by telling the activists that he wanted to go ahead with the programme he had committed to, but that he and his interlocutor, Vijay Prashad, would begin the proceedings by reading out a prepared statement in which they would spell out their views on big business including the Tatas. Obviously they were not going to present a particularly edifying picture of the business conglomerate’s activities. Expectedly, therefore, when the festival organisers got wind of Chomsky’s intentions, they cancelled the programme, without, of course, telling him why.

More here.