Howard Zinn Legacy

Excerpt: Howard Zinn’s legacy of exposing the injustice inherent in America’s social and foreign policies is deeply threatening to right-wing
ideologues. They are delighted by any opportunity to impugn Zinn and his legacy. In a post-Dubya, post-Iraq, post-Katrina, post subprime meltdown, post-Sarah Palin world, one would hope……

Erik: The writer asks a putative rhetorical question, “But the bigger question is, why bother calling him a Communist?”

…then, answers that question indirectly, “The basis of the article was Zinn’s F.B.I. file, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.”

Let me answer it directly. The F.B.I. files were released about a month and a half ago, so the reason why one would “bother calling him a Communist” is that, according to the raw intelligence within the files, he was believed to be a communist.

Let me pose a question: Why shouldn’t historical accuracy concerning public figures matter?

Good point, Erik! I am sure there are those who very much want to know the gender of Shakespeare and the sexual orientation of Lincoln or Plato. I will have to re-read the link to see if there is a statement that historical accuracy does not matter. It is one thing to have some tangible connection to Communist such as membership in a Communist party. It is another thing to admire some principle such as “production according to the means of each and consumption according to their needs” and it is yet another thing to admire some Communist ideal but see it as doomed to failure in practice.

One might say that the historical accuracy of Ram or Buddha or Jesus is not really important with regard to the ability of such a personality in narrative to inspire or empower actual people in real life. It would be curious to learn that there was never actually a “good Samaritan” who aided a wounded stranger on the wayside and yet that historical fact would have little bearing on all the good things done throughout history in the spirit of being “a good Samaritan.”

What if there was one bit of dubious evidence that he was
a communist? Given the deep and scholarly legacy he left
behind in which he wrote at length about the democracy, civil disobedience and people’s right’s , how could he be discounte…d
or discredited? And if you’ve not explored his writings, how could you really contextualize his leanings and associations?


Oddly enough this is the only link I found and it is not even Wikipedia (sorry Ruth):

Here is a lengthy excerpt from the above link which I post not to “win” some kind of argument or argue for or against Zinn the man but simply to explore.


To prove that Zinn was a member of the organization during this period would go a long way toward validating the animosity and distrust the right has for Zinn’s work, both as an anti-war activist, influential author and professor, and sainted historian of the left.

But it is a mistake to focus too closely on Zinn’s status as a member of CPUSA.

Proving it is difficult, and even if it could be proven – what does it prove? Undoubtedly many people in their twenties made poor choices and joined organizations that as adults they would shun. To judge Zinn’s life and career by how he spent his youth, the Eddie Vedders and Danny Glovers of the world would argue, ignores the larger question of how he spent the rest of his life.

And it is that question – how Howard Zinn spent his life – that the right should desire.

The left undoubtedly loves dancing around such myopic questions as, “Was Zinn a member of the Communist Party,” expressly because it detracts from the larger question of, “Was Zinn a communist?”

Did Howard Zinn espouse communist philosophy? Did he openly sympathize with America’s communist enemies? Did he seek to use his influence in academia and the media to convert America’s young to the cause of communism?

These questions do not require the kind of definitive proof the left can demand of the more precise issue of Zinn’s actual political affiliation. They only require the smell test, and Howard Zinn cannot pass the communist smell test.

From his well-known early work on behalf of infiltrated, trans-national labor and civil-rights organizations, to his radical anti-war activism, his seminal and revisionist historical work, The People’s History of the United States, and his lesser known entries into literature, the theater, and television – like his play Marx in Soho, or The People Speak – Zinn continually championed a view of America, capitalism, and the west in general that was utterly sympathetic to the views of Marx and Lenin.

(end of excerpt)


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