Left Forum 2010: Grand Finale with Arundhati Roy and Noam Chomsky

This is the moment Left Forum 2010 had been building up to for three days. It began with Jesse Jackson, it ended with Noam Chomsky, quite nice bookends for your Left Forum bookshelf.

Frances Fox Piven provided introductory remarks for the closing plenary. She paid homage to the late historian and truth-teller, Howard Zinn. Piven also indicated that record crowds and a record number of younger attendees came to the conference. Audio follows...


Brian Jones then followed with an inspired performance—a one-man soliloquy given by a Karl Marx returned from the dead to wag his finger and say “I told you so.” Check out his play “Marx in Soho” here.

Choice quotes from Jones’ performance:

“I am dead, and I am not. Hmph. That’s dialectics for you.”

“Telling the truth is the most revolutionary act.”

“160 years ago I sad capitalism would greatly increase global wealth, but that it would be concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. Goldman Sachs… I’ll say no more.”


Arundhati Roy took the stage next to deliver some quick thoughts on Howard Zinn, Barack Obama, the state of democracy around the world, war, and the economic plight of most of the global population.

Roy decided to speak a little bit on what “change we can believe in” looks like to the rest of the world. She decried the Indian government’s takeover of indigenous land, the burning of hundreds of rural, indigenous villages, and the suicides of 100,000 Indian farmers—the direct result of a neoliberal agenda.

She spoke to the hope that she and many worldwide were filled with when Barack Obama was elected president, hope that was deflated when, at his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, he made justifications for the two wars in which the United States is engaged. Progressives need to resist this mode of thinking, she notes, by taking increased measures that may also come with higher consequences if acted on.

“Today, the biggest scam in the world is democracy,” Roy says, startling much of the audience, until she explains that some of the world’s biggest proponents of democracy also have military presences in other peoples’ lands: Israel in Palestine, the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan, India in Kashmir.

Listen to Roy’s remarks below.


Noam Chomsky came out to a standing ovation. Of course. And then he came out with a heavy hitter, though seemingly from left field. Chomsky opened by recalling the story of Joseph Stack, the man who a month ago committed suicide by slamming his airplane into and IRS office in Austin, Texas. The theme of Chomsky’s discussion then unfolded: the economic crisis is fueling working class outrage in the United States, China, India and elsewhere around the world. Stack’s suicide mission was a manifestation of this anger.

Chomsky points out that global shifts in power are a reality, but they are not unfolding as generally depicted in public discourse and in the media. While he never elaborated on what this popular portrayal may be, I surmise it is the conversation of shifting power from the United States and the West in general, to China and Non-Western States— from hegemonic to diffuse paradigms. Instead, the real shift in power is part of an ongoing process, shifting power from the global workforce to transnational capital, a phenomenon that has been unfolding for decades.

As is par for the course with all of Chomsky’s lectures, he touched on a myriad of topics. Many of them included: the General Progress Indicator, U.S. prison-industrial complex, Ronald Reagan, Weimar Republic of the 1920s, Scott Brown’s election to the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, Barack Obama’s cozy relationship with banks and financial institutions, the U.S. government’s stimulus plan, and federal funding of transportation infrastructure.


Chomsky then exited stage left, pausing to raise a fist of defiance to the elated audience. Thus, Left Forum 2010 ended on a righteous note.

You can hear Professor Chomsky’s remarks below. And then check out reactions from two Mantlers here.

Shaun Randol founded The Mantle in 2009. Today he is the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher. You can email him at shaun [at] themantle.net. Shaun is the co-editor of Gambit: Newer African Writing.