‘Revolutionary Pacifism’: Noam Chomsky’s 2011 Sydney Peace Prize Address

Noam Chomsky riffs off A. J. Muste’s concept of ‘revolutionary pacifism’ to deliver the 2011 Sydney Peace Prize Lecture at Sydney Town Hall on Wednesday 2nd November. The transcript follows the audio.

Revolutionary Pacifism: Choices and Prospects

As we all know, the United Nations was founded “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” The words can only elicit deep regret when we consider how we have acted to fulfill that aspiration, though there have been a few significant successes, notably in Europe.

For centuries, Europe had been the most violent place on earth, with murderous and destructive internal conflicts and the forging of a culture of war that enabled Europe to conquer most of the world, shocking the victims, who were hardly pacifists, but were “appalled by the all-destructive fury of European warfare,” in the words of British military historian Geoffrey Parker. And enabled Europe to impose on its conquests what Adam Smith called “the savage injustice of the Europeans,” England in the lead, as he did not fail to emphasize. The global conquest took a particularly horrifying form in what is sometimes called “the Anglosphere,” England and its offshoots, settler-colonial societies in which the indigenous societies were devastated and their people dispersed or exterminated. But since 1945 Europe has become internally the most peaceful and in many ways most humane region of the earth – which is the source of some its current travail, an important topic that I will have to put aside.

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