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NB: This essay, by a major French Holocaust denier, is a detailed account of Chomsky’s collaboration with the French Holocaust denial movement. Chomsky’s closing remarks indicate that he assisted the Holocaust denier in the preparation of the essay. Readers are forewarned that the author is an antisemite and a Nazi apologist; therefore much of what follows is extremely offensive. Translated from French. Update, April 21, 2006: The deniers have now appropriated this translation while attacking the translator:
We reproduce the English translation, new to us, of a part of an important book written by Pierre Guillaume, of The Old Mole Group, on our relations with Noam Chomsky. The translation was meant as a weapon AGAINST Chomsky, seen from the point of view of the most extreme conservative Zionism. Paul Bogdanor, the publisher of this English translation is a fanatical Zionist. To him, Chomsky is worse than the Devil himself. His site is a collection of the most reactionary point of views [sic] of the last 40 years!!! The guy must be a comic! The translation is preceded by a note, which is pure calumny.The deniers’ devotion to their disgraced hero speaks for itself. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- [From Pierre Guillaume, Droit et Histoire (Paris: La Vieille Taupe, 1986), pp. 152-72] A Clarification By Pierre Guillaume [p. 152] Noam Chomsky was attacked with the utmost crudeness in a letter dated June 26, 1984, signed by Chantal Beauchamp and distributed in circles supporting Faurisson, a letter in which I myself am accused of dissembling (see nota bene, p. 172). This brings me, a little earlier than envisaged, to clarify a point of history. I met Noam Chomsky in 1979. He had a meeting with Serge Thion for a short academic discussion of Cambodia. Serge Thion introduced me and we were able to talk for about 15 minutes. I quickly explained to him the outline of the Faurisson affair, which, of course, he had never intended to discuss. Let’s recall that at this date Serge Thion’s book had yet to be published or written. We had therefore issued almost no literature and documentation; even if we had been able to judge the seriousness of Faurisson’s work, we had nothing to make anyone share our view and we ourselves had no final opinion on the validity of Faurisson’s conclusions. Chomsky asked me three questions to ascertain the sincerity of my involvement and assured me that he would try his best to defend Faurisson’s free speech and rights. Some months later, and without further communication between us, Chomsky signed – and had his colleagues sign – the following petition:
Dr. Robert Faurisson has served as a respected professor of Twentieth Century French literature and document criticism for over four years at the University of Lyon-2 in France. Since 1974 he has been conducting extensive independent historical research into the “holocaust” question. Since he began making his findings public, Professor Faurisson has been subject to a vicious campaign of harassment, intimidation, slander and physical violence in a crude attempt to silence him. Fearful officials [p. 153] have even tried to stop him from further research by denying him access to public libraries and archives. We strongly protest these efforts to deprive Professor Faurisson of his freedom of speech and expression, and we condemn the shameful campaign to silence him. We strongly support Professor Faurisson’s just right of academic freedom and we demand that university and government officials do everything possible to ensure his safety and the free exercise of his legal rights.This petition, lodged with the court, had the effect of a shower on our enemies and played a role in determining the course of the affair. The lynch-trial that LICRA [League Against Racism and Antisemitism] was preparing, with a case that was empty but stuffed with the sob-stories of a mob of avengers and fabricators, came to a sudden halt. Finally apprehending the nature of the obstacle, our enemies went looking for documents to support their case, at last allowing us to write about the historical controversy, to assemble and define a body of documentation, at long last allowing a rational technical debate in which they enmeshed themselves. Chomsky’s signature also played a role determining the attitude of the court, which suddenly understood that a shoddy verdict would not simply put an end to the matter. At the time, Faurisson – tormented by worries provoked by the affair’s repercussions on his family – saw his ability to work reduced to almost nil; the task was crushing, the situation almost desperate. While himself preoccupied in a difficult struggle in the United States, beset by calumnies, Chomsky jumped into the water to help us and stand up for his own principles in practice, without calculating the personal risks he was taking. Now, in 1984 – after the July 2, 1982 symposium and the Raymond Aron/Francois Furet press conference; after publication of the Réponse à Pierre Vidal-Naquet, after the April 26, 1983 denouement [i.e., the trial verdict] – it is easy to take Faurisson’s research seriously. One needed a lot of courage, conscience and endurance to take the position that Chomsky took in 1979. For this reason alone, Chomsky has earned the unanimous respect and recognition of La Vieille Taupe, whatever positions he may have taken subsequently. [p. 154] But Chomsky did not stop the concrete application of his principles there. He sent friendly replies to two of Faurisson’s letters, relating not to the historical scholarly discussion, but to the general circumstances of the debate. We are well placed to know how rare and courageous such politeness is. Better still: hoping to stage a red-hot publicity stunt, Jean-Edern Hallier had offered me editorial control over a book series on the Faurisson affair; suddenly appreciating the difficulties and risks, he then took fright. To compensate me for his promise, he offered to let me publish Chomsky’s Political Economy of Human Rights and Serge Thion’s Khmers Rouges, two books languishing for lack of money with Editions de la Différence. Chomsky accepted without demurring that his book should be published in a series that I directed and he proposed Serge Thion and Michele Noel for the translation. That is, he accepted that his personal work would suffer harshly from the backlash of the vile reputation imposed on us, rather than joining – for whatever reason of his own – in the ostracism and isolation of which we were the victims. Perhaps it was also to show our enemies in the clearest way that he remained firm on his principles and very mindful of the affair’s outcome. As Chomsky very well knew, we attached sufficient importance to his book that we were prepared to conceal our involvement so as not to damage his readership. He did not even ask us to do this. But as soon as this publishing project was known, our enemies were ready to assure publication; to guarantee him the widest publicity, to cover Chomsky with praise; to make allowance even for his “courageous stand for free speech” by affirming that they themselves had nothing against it, that there had been a misunderstanding, that Faurisson could express himself, etc. – provided that Chomsky agreed to distance himself from us. At the time, Faurisson could no longer express himself; our enemies were again confident of their easy victory. Chomsky did not give in. His book appeared with Hallier-Albin Michel Publishing, in my series. It was greeted by the impressive silence of unanimous rejection. [p. 155] Its circulation remained private. Weak sales made the publisher pulp the stock in 1984. [*] At this time I wrote Chomsky a letter in which, recalling our enemies’ tremendous power, I ended by saying that revolutionaries kept a decisive advantage over them: we communicated instantaneously by “thought transmission.” I’ll explain. Facing multiple conspiracies, we always had the absolute, fixed certainty that our mutual relations could always develop on completely principled lines and were therefore predictable. No Jesuitism, no casuistry, no opportunism, therefore total trust, which implies no loyalty and takes as self-evident that each of us maintains an equally total “mistrust” of the other. It is the same sort of rapport I had with Faurisson. It is the sole institutional basis of La Vieille Taupe. When lodged with the court, the petition set off for Chomsky an avalanche of letters from his good friends in Paris. Among them was Jean-Pierre Faye, who had returned from various ideological wanderings and was relying on the learned American’s works to make himself look good and restore his reputation in Parisian opinion; everywhere he was casting himself as the Chomskyan of Paris. There people were describing La Vieille Taupe in hellish terms. All the resources of political science, psychology, psychoanalysis and psychiatry were being deployed to explain the satanic alliance of Faurisson and La Vieille Taupe. The situation in France was portrayed in an apocalyptic manner. Nazism was at the doors. (This was the period of media reporting on FANE [National European Action Federation, a fascist group] and [its founder, Marc] Fredriksen; because they had discovered a policeman infiltrated in FANE, they were portraying the police as thoroughly riddled with neo-Nazis.) Confronted by a good dozen renowned intellectuals – some of whom had published him, invited him to conferences, circulated his writings, sung his praises for his scientific work or political commitments – [p. 156] Chomsky had nothing but the strength of his principles and his power of analysis. Chomsky replied firmly. For my information, he sent me not only our enemies’ letters (as manners require) but some of his replies. As the attacks raged against us, I requested his permission to publish this correspondence. As is his right, he thought it improper to publish letters referring to private correspondence. Therefore he offered to write a substantively identical essay referring only to our enemies’ public writings. Such is the origin of the polemic appearing as the preface to Robert Faurisson’s book Mémoire en défense contre ceux qui m'accusent de falsifier l’histoire. This polemic, sent to Serge Thion to make best use of it, was lodged with the Paris court. Informed by LICRA, our enemies resumed the siege of Chomsky. The latter was disturbed by the atmosphere of hysteria and total irrationality he perceived. He was afraid that the fact of even appearing to support the substance of Faurisson’s ideas would have the effect of destroying any credibility for his point of view and we would all be swept away by the storm. We are in October 1980. To date, nobody, absolutely nobody, in the academy has made a stand in support of Faurisson’s ideas or even his freedom of speech. Mémoire en défense, by definition, has not been published. Nobody can be sure – have a guarantee – that Faurisson’s historiographical conclusions are accurate. It is wholly reasonable to establish several defensive lines. It is necessary to require of our enemies a respect for a minimum of formalities. At the time, our movement was overwhelmed, its survival permanently under threat. It should be remembered that the book Intolérable Intolérance – with the viewpoints of Karnoouh, Monteil and Tristani – would only come out more than a year later. In September-October 1980, nobody could foresee how the debate would turn out. Our enemies had serious and obviously solid arguments, requiring a huge task of deconstruction from us. Many of the sledgehammer arguments we use now hadn’t yet come to mind. Many of the documents we use in [p. 157] 1984 were unknown, except perhaps to Faurisson. At this time, neither my own nor Thion’s convictions were fully established. To a large extent it was Vidal-Naquet’s monograph Un Eichmann de papier which – after verification and reflection – definitively convinced us through his sloppiness, falsehoods and displays of ignorance that our enemies really had nothing to say in reply. Still, time and effort were required from us. Let us return to Chomsky’s polemic. It was dated October 11, 1980. In a letter written on December 6, 1980, posted on [December] 9 and arriving on December 16, 1980, Chomsky wrote to me:
I’ve received stacks of letters from France asking me to withdraw the thing I sent you on civil liberties and Faurisson. The general tone of what people are writing to me indicates that the general level of hysteria is so high that no-one will pay attention to the facts in any case, and that the whole anti-imperialist effort will be undermined by a campaign aiming to link me with neo-Nazism. It is with reluctance that I finally tend to agree. I don’t know what the situation is at the present time. If publication is not yet in hand, I suggest firmly that you don’t put it in a book by Faurisson [...] but that you either drop this essay or publish it separately elsewhere. I’m sorry, perhaps it’s already too late.We (Thion and Guillaume) immediately phoned Chomsky, who had meanwhile received copies of the book on December 12. His immediate reaction was clear: he stood by his preface and asked us to treat his letter as null and void. So at the boiling-point of the affair, when no French intellectual had made a stand, Chomsky – who could reasonably fear seeing all his political work ruined in an instant – had not even withdrawn his essay – as he had the right to do – but had “firmly suggested” that we do so, explaining this to us with a mild statement of serious and considered arguments. He had then abandoned this final reservation the moment he received the book. One must say that, in any case, Chomsky stood by the contents of his essay, a true beacon of hope in the atmosphere of the time. He had already done a huge amount in practice to defend Faurisson’s rights [p. 158] and resist censorship – including involving himself personally through numerous private letters, care of his acquaintances in Paris. And it’s this courage – unique in the entire intelligentsia – that today gets him attacked by Chantal Beauchamp! Let’s return to December 1980. Things were therefore perfectly clear between Chomsky and La Vieille Taupe. But on Thursday December 18, during Ann Sinclair’s program, Thursday’s Guest, surprise guest Jean-Pierre Faye, mentioning “his long friendship with Noam,” quoted a truncated and out-of-context sentence from a personal letter from Chomsky; announced that Chomsky was withdrawing his essay; and claimed possession of Faurisson’s book, which he was holding for safekeeping as a bibliographical collector’s item that would be one of the few surviving copies! At 11pm on December 18, with Chomsky’s consent by telephone, Thion communicated to AFP [Agence France Presse] and all the national newspapers the following release, which AFP did not reproduce and all the papers ignored. On the contrary, on [December] 19, the entire press announced Chomsky’s “volte-face” and disseminated Jean-Pierre Faye’s version.
The Chomsky-Faurisson Affair Released by Serge Thion Paris, Thursday, December 18, 1980, 11pm Noam Chomsky retracts nothing in the Faurisson affair. During the Channel 2 program Thursday’s Guest, Jean-Pierre Faye mentioned a letter that Noam Chomsky had sent him, quoting the following sentences: “OK, you’ve convinced me. I’ve written to Faurisson’s editors to avoid publishing the preface or keep it out of any Faurisson-linked publication.” In the private letter he sent to Serge Thion for Faurisson’s editors (letter written on December 6, posted [December] 9, arrived [December] 16), Chomsky specifically says (we quote with his permission):Without the means to distribute our message, we had to leave unchallenged the version that Chomsky would have withdrawn his essay but was too late to stop publication, though he firmly stood by its contents. Unlike our enemies, we had no access to the press, and spreading information that is even remotely accurate on the gas chambers issue is harder than climbing up the Niagara Falls by swimming. The Jean-Pierre Faye/Ann Sinclair circus had succeeded perfectly. Chomsky was about to suffer all the penalties of his intellectual courage, worsened by the fact that the public had the impression that all this wasn’t very clear. But if the storm was raging in the press and on the airwaves, the essay itself was lodged with the court, along with the book. And the judges well understood that – whatever the media consensus might say – if the book wasn’t recalled, if our enemies didn’t even produce a letter from Chomsky, then in reality, Chomsky had in no way abandoned his uncompromising support for Faurisson’s free speech and civil rights. It would be necessary to take it into account. The rest was merely the frothing of waves. Not until 1981 did systematic study of massive communications of materials by LICRA let us make decisive progress in the project of strictly scholarly research on the gas chambers and reach a set of findings transmissible to a rational mind without demanding an enormous personal effort from our interlocutors, which [p. 160] therefore made it possible to reinforce the initial revisionist core. And, one has to say, this decisive step could be taken only thanks to the invaluable support Chomsky gave us – not because he would have defended Faurisson’s analyses in any way, overtly or covertly, as the hysterics want to believe, but because with rare firmness, Chomsky stuck to his principles: factual knowledge can emerge only from an open, honest and frank debate. The scandal ignited around the Chomsky-Faurisson affair gave the issue an international resonance and led new readers to learn of these writings. On December 16, 1980, Ivan Levai hosted on Europe 1 channel LICRA president Jean-Pierre Bloch, who in a few minutes uttered no less than 13 outright lies. The reason for this invitation: Chomsky’s stand. On December 17, in reply, Faurisson in turn went on the channel, where Ivan Levai had invited him expecting to catch him in a trap, make him stumble and once and for all expose him to ridicule. This episode, where Faurisson pronounced his famous 60-word sentence, lit the gunpowder. All this we owe to the intervention by Chomsky, who found himself in the middle of an unprecedented campaign. In France, the consensus tale spread in the intelligentsia that Chomsky must have been deceived by La Vieille Taupe, that Faurisson’s free speech and civil rights were not under threat, that Chomsky understood nothing about anything. In the United States and England, where the imperial ideology of the West has been reconstituted, Chomsky had already seen his audience reduced and was the victim of crude defamation campaigns. The same man who had opposed the American war in Vietnam, without ever celebrating or deluding himself about Eastern-bloc regimes, saw himself accused of backing Pol Pot or North Vietnamese Stalinism, including by the very people who had held precisely this attitude and wanted to make people forget it. Aiming to destroy him completely, they now accused him of supporting Faurisson’s views. [p. 161] On this side of Atlantic, where the Faurisson question was shaking the temples of thought, people were claiming that in the end Chomsky was against Faurisson’s ideas. On the other side of Atlantic, people were claiming the opposite. Certain very Parisian clowns managed to make both incompatible claims at the same time (see Chomsky’s Réponses inédites à mes détracteurs parisiens, Paris, Cahiers Spartacus, 1984). Chomsky was constrained to answer this flood of madness and frenzy in order to restate the facts, all the while “defending concretely, forcefully and effectively” Faurisson’s free speech and civil rights. He successively answered Nadine Fresco in American magazines and Gitta Sereny in the British weekly New Statesman, then tried to reply in France, but his responses were censored (see Réponses inédites...). So he reiterates the facts against his slanderers, saying that he never took a stand in support of Faurisson’s ideas. He quotes a phrase of his, written in 1969 and included in his book Peace in the Middle East in 1974, according to which “the massacre of the Jews was the most fantastic outburst of collective insanity in the history of humanity.” Thus, as long as he writes nothing that contradicts this phrase, all those accusing him of being a revisionist must have patience and interpret Chomsky’s essay only as written. In truth, the enemies of Chomsky are the enemies of free thought and free speech above all. They are opposed to an open, honest and frank debate, because this debate definitely couldn’t turn out their advantage. If they were really convinced that the gas chambers existed, they would seek out debate, or at least not avoid it. The position taken by Chomsky is inescapable and unanswerable. It is absolutely essential for anyone who has not abandoned any strength of character. It is minimal, necessary and sufficient for the advance of factual knowledge and the victory of truth. Is it because in their confusion they smell the danger that our enemies are trying every means of forcibly flushing Chomsky out of this position? And hasn’t Chantal Beauchamp found some more urgent task than helping them there? [p. 162] Mockingly, she quotes this Chomsky sentence:
I’ve received stacks of letters from France asking me to withdraw the thing I sent you on civil liberties and Faurisson. The general tone of what people are writing to me indicates that the general level of hysteria is so high that no-one will pay attention to the facts in any case, and that the whole anti-imperialist effort will be undermined by a campaign aiming to link me with neo-Nazism. With reluctance [p. 159] I finally tend to agree. I don’t know what the situation is at the present time. If publication is not yet in hand, I suggest firmly that you don’t put it in a book by Faurisson (or whatever you plan to publish) but that you either drop this essay or publish it separately elsewhere. I’m sorry, perhaps it’s already too late.So there was a campaign waged in Paris to establish that Chomsky is forsaking his libertarian positions, which remain unchanged. Jean-Pierre Faye has even cited these names: Pierre Vidal-Naquet, Mitsou Ronat, Jacqueline Gueron, Dan Sperber. It happens that Faurisson’s work has appeared, prefaced by Chomsky’s essay. The latter has received Faurisson’s book and for him there is no question of disavowing his essay. Asked by phone, Chomsky has just declared that he takes full responsibility for an essay enunciating principles that Faurisson’s detractors would like to see applied to themselves alone.
If – contrary to what I believe – someone showed that there had been no gas chambers, but that the massacre of millions of Jews was the outcome of dreadful conditions in slave camps, it would not change my evaluation of the Nazi genocide.This sentence, published in 1984, was written in September 1981 (Réponses inédites, p. 46). At this time, though we knew with certainty that the figure of 6 million Jewish victims of Nazism was very exaggerated, we had no serious or proven statistical formula for offering a well-founded calculation. There is still no serious statistical study. [†] The huge mortality in the camps is disputed by no-one. Not until 1983 did we begin assembling irrefutable documents proving that the number of survivors was much higher than we had believed; in particular, that the great majority of the victims had died in the last 3 months of the war and the 2 months post-liberation. And that their decimation was therefore attributable neither to the permanent living conditions in the camps, nor to a deliberate extermination policy, but rather to hunger and lack of hygiene – caused not by the green or red Häftlingsführung [prisoner leadership], but by hellish and uncontrollable chaos resulting from total war and the final collapse of the German state, by famine and epidemics that also decimated the German civilians in the cities. Only in May 1984 did a deportee’s testimony allow me to confirm this analysis; the Chomsky sentence that Chantal Beauchamp mocks in 1984 probably represented the opinion of a good number of Faurisson’s supporters in 1979-1980. And if this sentence seems mistaken and excessive to a small number of informed persons, it is thanks to [p. 163] a keen research effort that could advance only because Chomsky’s courageous positions allowed the minimal conditions to exist. Besides, this Chomsky sentence written urbi et orbi had, at the time of writing, the priceless advantage of transmitting the essential message: questioning the existence of the gas chambers by no means implies abandoning radical criticism of Nazi ideas and condemnation of the concentration camp system and antisemitic measures. A final remark on Chomsky’s standpoint: he multiplied the number of viewpoints supporting Faurisson’s free speech, denouncing the lawsuits brought against him and the low blows of his enemies in particularly energetic terms, while leaving to Faurisson the responsibility and glory of defending his own work. Every time he has said that his opinions remained “diametrically opposed” to those of Faurisson, he has done it in terms incapable of harming Faurisson; and he has always indicated, with a word or phrase, that his “diametrically opposed” view was more a matter of opinion than scientific knowledge. In fact, this sudden belligerence towards Noam Chomsky rests on a phantasm and an illusion. Chomsky is seen as an academic enjoying a considerable media presence who could reverse the situation with a single word and a wave of the magic wand. All this is entirely wrong. Chomsky – whose work in linguistics has won a worldwide reputation – was always terribly isolated in his political commitments, save for brief moments when his commitments corresponded to vast social movements (the anti-Vietnam war movement), but where his notoriety was achieved by dint of the media adulterating the sum of his views. From 1973 to 1982, Chomsky was again completely isolated. An initial version of his book Political Economy of Human Rights had been withdrawn from circulation in the United States by the publisher; the second publisher, South End Press, is a minuscule publisher, hardly read, primarily in militant circles. While his position in the Faurisson affair should logically have received general approval, on the contrary he found himself completely alone – proof that there is a dose of irrationality in this affair that must be taken into account. If he had become [p. 164] involved in a genuine historical debate on either side, in line with his convictions, he would have had to undertake a huge effort, because he could not have confined himself to forming a personal opinion and then expressing it; he would have had to defend it, justify it, and therefore assimilate enormous documentation, try to verify it, etc. – to do what we did, constrained and coerced by the French situation. He would have needed – we are well placed to know this – to abandon all other activity, thus abandoning his own work and the preparation of his books: Towards a New Cold War, 1982; The Fateful Triangle, 1983. Without taking into account his work in linguistics. But this would have saved him from being treated as a fool by Chantal Beauchamp. All this wouldn’t have much importance, were it not the sign of a real danger. Chantal Beauchamp no longer believes in the gas chambers. She has been persuaded that Faurisson is right. So be it. Me too. I hope this conviction spreads; if this conviction does happen to spread, I think I will have been one of those who played a certain role in this complex process. But for Chantal Beauchamp, this newfound conviction is instantly becoming a new truth, fortified by a fixed division of good and evil that will allow a new inquisition against all those who do not share her own personal conviction. The logic of her 5 pages is no longer the logic of La Vieille Taupe, it is the constitution of a Faurissonnist cult, a new LICRA. In the name of the new dogma, people will hunt the heretics. Soon, it will be necessary to distribute numbered cards to certify the date of admission to Faurissonnism and create an order of companions of the liberation. Identical causes produce identical effects; this logic will lead Chantal Beauchamp to use immediately, and ipso facto, the same methods as our enemies. She cites Chomsky in quotation marks: “There are no [p. 165] reasonable grounds to doubt the existence of the gas chambers.” Chomsky himself wrote to her: “For me, there are no...” [“Pour moi, il n’existe pas...”]. Chantal Beauchamp excises the “For me, ...” [“Pour moi, ...”] and replaces the lower case “i” following the comma with an “I” [i.e., she changes “... il n’existe pas...” to “Il n’existe pas...”]. The “For me,” is important; it was not necessary to remove it from page 3 of her essay in support of her reasoning, even if she had already quoted it, correctly this time, on page 1 of her letter. Especially since this passage followed a long excursus where Chomsky forcefully stood up for Faurisson, and was followed by an unambiguous statement: “Only a religious fanatic could refuse to investigate questions of fact”; then by a second unambiguous statement: “I myself have not undertaken such an investigation”; then by a third unambiguous statement: “The thesis that there were no gas chambers looks highly implausible to me and the denial of the holocaust seems totally impossible to me.” Thus Chomsky clearly indicated that his present opinion (September-October 1981) had no other source and no greater weight than conventional opinion, so investigation was legitimate. By suppressing this “For me, ...” Chantal Beauchamp distorts Chomsky’s position and affords herself the luxury of “discovering” an inconsistency in his writings which he himself acknowledges unambiguously, and which, to some extent, he himself brings into the picture. And, so that everything is perfectly clear, here is Chomsky without ambiguity: “It has been claimed (for instance by Vidal-Naquet) that it was ‘scandalous’ to defend Faurisson’s right to free speech without denouncing his conclusions.” How better to say and show that Chomsky is not denouncing Faurisson’s conclusions, something he takes care to state unambiguously: “That of course would require me to examine scrupulously all his documentation, etc.” After the specious truncation of a text on page 3, Chantal Beauchamp is about to use another method hitherto characteristic of our enemies: denouncing and hurling anathemas, firmly entrenched in her righteousness and moralism. I must be a dissembler! And this, for having published, in full and in succession, Chomsky’s petition, polemic and unpublished clarifications! And I must take my readers for fools for having written: “Noam Chomsky, who prefers not to take [p. 166] a position on the basic issue of the affair”! Well, I insist on it: Chomsky did not take a position on the basic issue of the affair; he is someone who invokes the status of his opinions only while making his own relative amateurism clear and underlining the equal amateurism of most of those who thought they were able to take a position against Faurisson. I maintain that Chomsky defends Faurisson’s freedom of speech concretely, energetically and effectively. And I add that I would equally have published any clarification by Chomsky, even if he had taken a position against Faurisson’s ideas. A third approach characteristic of our enemies: the search for hidden and shady explanations to explain unwelcome attitudes. Chantal Beauchamp writes:
Anyway, having no particular insight into what motivates Guillaume, I cannot therefore determine if it is necessary to speak further about these dismaying facts of deception, dishonesty, and attempted manipulation of Chomsky by Guillaume or mutually. One thing is certain, however: Guillaume tried to manipulate people he knows to be convinced of the accuracy of Faurisson’s works, by gravely misleading them about the contents of an essay, hostile to the aforementioned works, which he himself published.My relations with Chomsky – as with Faurisson; as with the persons present at the June 16, 1984 meeting; and with the readers of my May 18, 1984 circular – are crystal clear. There is neither falsehood, nor dissimulation, nor conspiracy, nor manipulation. Everyone is free to get together on foundations other than those of La Vieille Taupe and establish a league of guardians of the truth waging war against heretics and the “lukewarm.” This type of approach will instantly reinforce the delusions of our enemies, who will not fail to find there the justification for refusing any debate; for refusing to take the measure of the controversy and study our arguments; and for substituting political and ideological confrontation for historical and scientific exchange. The danger is great that our work and all our progress could see themselves swept away because our enemies don’t care about accuracy. It is in any case a good thing that Chantal Beauchamp’s letter demonstrates such an incredible belligerence towards myself and [p. 167] La Vieille Taupe that she makes it clear that her attitudes are completely foreign to La Vieille Taupe. It remains no less true that the publication in May 1984 of Chomsky writings produced in 1981-1982 and censored at their inception seems out of step with the development of the historical debate in France. That makes it possible to measure the tremendous progress achieved in two years. We won our freedom to express ourselves with a major struggle, even if it is still very far from being exercised under normal conditions, and even if one needs a lot of courage and determination to use it. The historical debate made decisive progress, thanks to the lawsuits whose actual historiographical results we have yet to learn. Chantal Beauchamp, a historian by profession, would have been better advised to write a synthesis of a dozen pages, circulate it and send it to Chomsky asking what he thought of it, rather than hurling anathemas and pronouncing the excommunication of Chomsky, René Lefeuvre (publisher of Cahiers Spartacus) and myself in a collective Herem [sic: Hebrew for ban] lacking even the minimum of politeness... True, René Lefeuvre lacked clarity and firmness in this affair and I pointed it out at the time (La Guerre Sociale, supplement to number 3, p. 84). Equally true, he also opposed my slanderers and his attitude in his circle certainly prevented several plans of attack against me from coming to fruition! In this affair, few indeed are those who stayed firm and irreproachable on principles on every occasion. If it can be convenient to denounce weaknesses, it is often criminal and always absurd to denounce weak people; it is often what marks the degeneration of revolutionary comradeship in the militant arena. What matters is to reduce the causes of the excessive pressures we all endure. Chomsky became involved while also personally committed to work and to onerous struggles absorbing all his attention and energy. Dramatic events were taking place in the Middle East. His own work exposing the material and psychological sources of [p. 168] American imperialism, the realities of Zionism and the State of Israel, took on an immediate significance, something that could lead to practical results. How is this work less important than Faurisson’s and why should his have been sacrificed as soon as the deceptive appearances imposed by fanaticism were able to place them in contradiction? Shouldn’t he have preoccupied himself more with the debate raging in France, abandoning all his projects? Why wouldn’t Chomsky summon Faurisson or Chantal Beauchamp to take a stand on his own efforts without delay? At any rate, these current attacks on him vindicate his assessment of the irrational and deranged character of intellectual circles in France and justify his trying first of all, at the time of this affair, to revive thoroughly forgotten general principles. Let’s imagine a point when, the taboo being broken, a real debate commences and the non-existence of the Hitlerian gas chambers and the genocide of the Jews is accepted by all historians. Those who continue to maintain that these chambers existed and publish studies compiling testimonies, admissions and documents that official history has acknowledged as myths could be accused of disturbing social order and inciting hate. Wouldn’t it be necessary to ban this literature? Wouldn’t it be necessary to silence these peddlers of hateful and self-serving war propaganda? It certainly seems that in France the after-effects of collaboration, resistance and Stalinism on the basis of the battle of faiths leave the mind helpless in the face of such a childish hypothetical. There is a fundamental opposition between conceptions of the social and political order structured by monotheism (or its atheistic inversion) which make the social order depend on collective adherence to a universal ideology, therefore on shared belief; and conceptions which hold that ideologies, states of consciousness and beliefs are products of social experience and are attributes of the individual or a people. According to this second conception, it is up to the social order to arrange the coexistence and confrontation of ideologies and beliefs, and to react against the hegemonic and totalitarian claims of a particular ideology. [p. 169] In the latter case, scientific progress has the privilege of imposing consensus views without any mechanism of authority and constraint. To appreciate the vileness of the attacks aimed at Chomsky by someone posing as a defender of Faurisson, one may want to think hard about the following analogy. On a trip to Bolivia at the climax of the affair, a Professor Faure meets a friend who tells him of the case of a Bolivian professor persecuted for publishing conclusions about population genetics that the whole intellectual establishment regards as an incitement to the massacre of Indians! The Bolivian professor defends himself. He seems to know his case but cannot make himself heard. It is clear, for Faure, that if the Indians are massacred in Bolivia, it’s for economic, social and political reasons that have nothing to do with scientific arguments on the monogenism or polygenism of humanity. The reactions of the intellectual establishment have more to do with protecting the taboos of the tribe (of intellectuals) than defending the Indians. In any case, the Bolivian professor’s scholarly conclusions are either true or false and their truth or falsity must be established within the framework of debate and normal scientific procedures. It is also clear that supporting this professor will lead to the craziest linkages and will hamstring a little more, if not totally, the debate arising from Professor Faure’s own work. Besides, all of Faure’s Bolivian friends beg him not to get involved, maintain that this Bolivian professor is a dangerous nut, an eccentric, perhaps even a Nazi, that he has been used! Clearly, making a stand offers little or no benefit, but entails a terrible backlash against any possibility of reasonable reflection on Faure’s work and the whole revisionist school. What should be done? And what would Faure have done? No-one can tell him and no-one has the right to demand anything from him. (If they persist, these cannibals, in making heroes of us, they will soon see that our bullets are for our own generals!) All that can be said is that capitulating on one point or other means an irreparable defeat [p. 170] for the spirit. If, by contrast, someone finds in himself the strength to concede nothing, it is probably a sign that a whole historical era has ended and a new spirit is being born. Well, Faure jumped into the water. He endured all the predictable ordeals. And three years later, he is vilified for not having taken sides in support of the Bolivian professor’s genetic hypotheses – by a qualified Brazilian geneticist making her first known public intervention! – September 28, 1984. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The first version of the preceding text included numerous errata and a misunderstanding that Chomsky drew to our attention, while reaffirming that his position was fixed and unchanged. In the text, we have corrected errors that don’t affect the argument; below, we offer Chomsky’s comments. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- My case wasn’t in the least unique in the world; the story is entirely typical and could be illustrated with numerous examples. My case was perhaps more remarkable because I had been very visible, undoubtedly, from 1969 to 1973, to the point where, in a study undertaken in 1970 on the “American intellectual elite” (a ridiculous concept, it goes without saying), the majority of participants (rather paranoid) attributed to me almost magical powers over the mass media and public opinion. Three factors explain why I was especially vilified: first, I was particularly “visible”; second, in 1969 I began treating Israeli policy in a rather critical fashion, which, for American intellectuals, is like finding fault with the Soviet Union for Stalinists; third, a large proportion of my writings was devoted to critical analysis of the activities of the “intellectual elite,” which is unlikely to make you an object of sympathy among the commissars. In the opening years of the ’70s, this situation worsened. Publications “that count” are no longer publishing my articles, very rare exceptions aside, and a flood of slanders and insults, like the ones you’ve been used to for some years, made its appearance and is still continuing, in fact continuing to grow. The reason for this is transparent, and the connection you make can be misleading. Although it’s perfectly true that both others and myself, those of us who deviated from the Party line, have been marginalized (neutralized, as Vidal wrote in the New York Review [of Books]) since the ’70s, the situation has not reverted to what it was in the mid-’60s. On the contrary, although the vast popular movements of the ’60s have become [p. 171] less visible, in this period they’ve continued to exist and even grow, to the great distress of the commissars – I mean the liberal intellectuals who constitute the priesthood of the State religion. There’s even a technical term to describe this disturbing phenomenon: “the Vietnam syndrome” or the “crisis of democracy.” That’s still going on today. In fact, that’s why Reagan calculated that he couldn’t directly attack Central America, as his model, John F. Kennedy, had been able to attack Vietnam 20 years before. Also, throughout this period, while I was excluded from fashionable and polite circles (without much regret, I should say, given my total contempt for their intellectual and moral level), urgent requests for conferences, etc., kept increasing, the audiences grew and became more supportive and so on. That’s still true today, causing much hysteria in the establishment. Last week, for instance, The New Republic, in a new series of its Stalinist-type lies (invoking what must be my “denial of the holocaust,” etc.) proclaimed despairingly that I’m completely discredited and even my friends no longer want to be associated with me. This was printed in a pamphlet distributed by a group of fanatical and rather clapped-out Zionists, outside a room where I spoke about the Middle East to an enthusiastic audience of 1,000-plus people at the University of Michigan, before rushing to Detroit the same evening to speak on the same subject before another packed room. And this happens all the time. For instance, Political Economy of Human Rights, which received zero publicity in the mass media and which many retailers refuse even to stock, is nevertheless selling many more copies than the books I wrote at the height of the anti-war movement. There is a real Kulturkampf [ideological struggle] here. The secular priesthood lost control over public opinion and they very much want it back. They never stop pretending that people like me are “isolated” or “discredited” and they do it all the more passionately because they know that exactly the opposite is true. I can’t accept even a fraction of the speaking invitations sent to me, and it isn’t like the ’60s, when I spoke to five people in a church, instead there are real crowds on campuses and in communities. In the same way, they always write about how the popular movements of the ’60s have vanished and been discredited, and how the country is “swinging to the Right,” knowing that the popular movements have survived and remain effective and full of life, and that anti-interventionism is much more powerful now than in the past. In fact, in the last Gallup poll I saw, more than 70% of the population (but far fewer of the “leaders of opinion” and practically none of the establishment intelligentsia) answered “yes” to the question: “Was the Vietnam war ‘fundamentally wrong and immoral,’ not just a mistake?” This is the type of phenomenon that terrifies the commissars. – Chomsky, October 27, 1984. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- [p. 172] NOTA BENE – To make this text comprehensible, let’s simply explain that the letter to which it replies had been provoked by the volume assembled through my efforts, Noam Chomsky’s Réponses inédites à mes détracteurs parisiens. In a circular to La Vieille Taupe’s customers, I had introduced this work as “a concrete, energetic and effective case for Faurisson’s freedom of speech.” In the same circular, I shamed “all those who make a profession of thinking up and inventing a thousand reasons for not learning the evidence, for evading the central texts, for postponing the confrontation.” But in the published literature, written at different times, not only does Chomsky not take a side on the basic issue; he even writes that for him, “there are no reasonable grounds to doubt the existence of the gas chambers.” Inconsistency on my part? This would be to forget that Chomsky showed exceptional courage and determination; that he became involved unambiguously by denouncing the lies of Faurisson’s enemies; and that he firmly indicated that defending freedom of speech wasn’t confined to defending the freedom of friends. Careful reading of his writings leaves no doubt in this respect. So that the references are less murky, let’s add that Chantal Beauchamp is a qualified history professor. Close to far-left circles, where she originally learned of the case, she started adhering to revisionist ideas and, unlike many, became involved in activism as a result. Monogenism and polygenism, to which reference is made at the end of the essay, are two opposing doctrines on the origin of the human race. Monogenism believes in a single origin and a successive differentiation of the human groups constituting, notably, the three major races. Polygenism believes in a plural origin from the evolution of apes to humans. Voltaire, for instance, was a polygenist, more as a reaction against biblical monogenism than for scientific reasons. Independently of the scientific debate (essentially paleontology and genetics), some partisans of monogenism accuse their enemies of the blackest intentions and, notably, of wanting to exterminate their “others.” For my part, I don’t have the necessary competence to resolve this and, above all, I don’t care. FOOTNOTES [p. 155] [*] Informed by the publisher Albin Michel, I offered to find a fair solution. They replied that the stock had burned, except for copies in storage, i.e., a few hundred. [p. 162] [†] Since then, there has appeared in the United States: Walter N. Sanning, The Dissolution of Eastern European Jewry, which closes the demographic debate by vindicating point by point, in an exhaustive fashion, Paul Rassinier’s work, Le Drame des juifs européens, republished by La Vieille Taupe.