History

Howard Zinn, R.I.P.

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Let me preface this with: I'm sure Howard Zinn, who died today, thought or wrote all sorts of perfectly awful things. And I haven't read him or thought about him much in decades, and could no longer meaningfully discuss his work without hours of refreshing my mind.

But I'll say this for the very popular historian among the progressive left: when I, as a youngish libertarian around age 19 or so, read his million-selling A People's History of the United States, I had zero problem seeing in it enormous amounts of education and intellectual ammunition for my then and now general view of government as a historical criminal.

I even wrote an article for my college paper's entertainment supplement on the 4th of July on a tragical history tour of U.S. government crimes that I recall was largely sourced from him. He helped remind me that when it comes to history, politics, and knowledge in general, it's foolish to think that only the ideologically sympatico have valuable things to teach.

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  1. Spell Check, R.I.P.

  2. While there were three errors in the original post, none of them, alas, were spelling errors.

    1. You know what I mean… I’m just an amateur, what do you expect.

    2. Actually, “simp?tico” is mispelled. So I was right.

      1. Also should be an historical, not a historical, as strange as an historical sounds.

        1. “Also should be an historical, not a historical, as strange as an historical sounds.”

          That’s outdated and no longer standard. “A historical” is considered proper.

          And since you made a point to correct someone else: Is there some reason you didn’t use quotation marks around “a historical” and “an historical”? Even if you don’t know the use-mention distinction by name, surely you must be familiar with it in practice. Your sentence looks stupid.

    3. “none of them” is singular

  3. For those wondering, they included a period in an inappropriate place, a mistaken verb tense, and a homonym in place of the proper word.

    1. Like anybody cares. I loved your I I obit. I can’t wait to read your next me me story.

      1. Ms—Does this mean you aren’t renewing your subscription to my newsletter?

        1. I have a burning woman desire to put it on my list.

    2. I believe the proper spelling is “hominem”.

      1. You’re thinking of the fallacy. He actually meant homophone.

        1. I actually meant homonym–a word that sounds the same but has different meaning or spelling. Homophone is a synonym for homonym.

          1. What does being afraid of gay people have to do with words that sound the same?

          2. Hmm . . . no, the word is ‘Houyhnhnms’, but it really makes no sense in this context.

            1. Matthew has retired this subthread.

          3. Cinnamon is almost of homonym for synonym. Cinnamon is almost of homonym for synonym. Cinnamon is almost of homonym for synonym. Cinnamon is almost of homonym for synonym.

          4. I thought “homophone” was the sonic equivalent of gaydar.

            1. When you see a forty year old man with a pink glitter Hello Kitty case on his cell phone, I bet homophone is the first thing that comes to mind.

              1. When you see a post from a guy that knows about a pink glitter Hello Kitty cell phone case, you know homo.

  4. And then Howard Zinn reminded all of us that bad big gov’t should be replaced by good big gov’t. HIS big gov’t, full of goodness and light.

    1. Reason that statement out for me Matt. I don’t remember reading anywhere what as you say “HIS big gov’t full of goodness and light” is referenced.

      1. Ted G.: Howard Zinn was an ardent and outspoken authoritarian socialist.

        I think that’s what makes this post incredibly ironic. I thought it was a joke at first and am flabbergasted that Zinn’s political position is not mentioned here.

        Zinn’s only problem was that the government was so gosh darn bad, along with those big corporations and religious loons. Instead, he wanted a nation that wasn’t just so backward–one that could immerse themselves in a secular humanist, quasi-religious devotion to an all-powerful state.

        If only we were “progressive” enough…. we would have *good* government, you see….

        1. Not true. He was an anti-authoritarian at his core. Closest to an anarcho-syndicalist. His vision was of a society with no centralized control run by local cooperatives.

          1. Wouldn’t that make him anti-centralized authoritarian?

            Doesn’t the anarcho-syndicalist want for the local cooperatives, let’s call them “people’s committees” to decide almost every single aspect of life? Once it gets small enough it isn’t authority anymore?

            1. I don’t think that is an accurate description of anarcho-syndicalism.

              1. I did phrase the post as a question.

                From Wiki: Anarcho-syndicalism is a branch of anarchism which focuses on the labour movement.[1] Syndicalisme is a French word, ultimately derived from the Greek, meaning “trade unionism” ? hence, the “syndicalism” qualification. Syndicalism is an alternative co-operative economic system. Anarcho-syndicalists view it as a potential force for revolutionary social change, replacing capitalism and the State with a new society democratically self-managed by workers. Anarcho-syndicalists seek to abolish the wage system, regarding it as “wage slavery,” and state or private ownership of the means of production, which they believe lead to class divisions.

                Democratically self-managed is a contradiction.

                This is not simply the division of labor. It seems to me to be the basic contradiction of anarchy. You can’t get people to do the same thing without organization.

                Ultimately, there is either total government or limited government. True anarchy would simply lead to one or the other. The “anarcho-syndicalist” is an advocate of total government organized differently.

                1. The whole tradition of anarchism is built around alternative, decentralized ways to organize society. Organization and anarchism are not (in and of themselves) contradictory. I know you’ll probably run around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to figure that one out, but don’t get too worked up.

                  1. Organization and anarchism are not (in and of themselves) contradictory.

                    Sure, and Liberty and Socialism aren’t either? The original anarchists sure thought there were contradictions.

                    What would I try to figure out? You didn’t even attempt to argue your position. You made a claim, basically said “Nuh-uh”, and then didn’t try to back it up. Seems pretty obvious.

                    1. “The original anarchists sure thought there were contradictions.”

                      The original anarchists, eh? Like Bakunin – “liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; and that socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality”?

                      Or maybe Proudhon before him, the founder of the Mutualist idea of market socialism?

                      Or Benjamin Tucker (arguably the first American anarchist), who’s objection was to State Socialism and regarded himself as a libertarian socialist.

                      Which one?

              2. Neu Mejican:
                You’re right, historically anarcho-syndicalists have concentrated power at the national level so clearly they’re not in favor of small, localised authority.

            2. Marshall,

              you hit my point. Perhaps I shouldn’t have said the word “state” to describe Zinn’s authoritarian vision.

              To Neu Mejican:

              Zinn seemed hostile about hierarchical command-and-control institutions, primarily because that has been the orthodoxy of power for the last, oh, forever.

              But if you look deeper at Zinn, you find a strong-willed Marxist class warrior. His belief in “democratic” ownership is hostile to capitalism; he sees politics as a means of organization and management of the economy. Whether this be unions, guilds, syndicates, whatever. His utopian vision is marred by the fact that this is exactly what every tyrannical socialist system has supported; however, political management of economics requires force (hence my perhaps unwise usage of the “state”). Zinn does not understand the downfall of every two-bit socialist before him: democratic economics is just a proxy for tyranny. Someone has to manage this wealth distribution of these New Men…

              Some people have a subtlety that makes them easy to misunderstand, but Zinn really is just a basket of contradictions.

              1. I’ve never understood this supposition that capitalism equals liberty, while democratic decisions in the workplace are considered anti-libertarian. Seems like it should be the other way around.

                1. Puget
                  Before the establishment of the Libertarian Party and ‘Liberaritanism’ in the 70s it was (and still is in Europe). Anarchist are actually fairly bitter about it.

                2. It’s because they’re making democratic decisions about other people’s property, which both implies and causes tyranny. There is nothing in free market capitalism against making democratic decisions with your own property. The anarcho-syndicalists were in fact very anti-libertarian when they got into power.

  5. it’s foolish to think that only the ideologically sympatico have valuable things to teach.

    It’s also foolish to think they’re not trying to fool you. There is a good thing in Zinn, and you’ve basically hit it, but it’s not there for us, and we don’t have to go through him to get it?except that sourcing libertarian thoughts to him is a better way to get laid than citing Rothbard is. And I thank the dead asshole for that.

    1. Agreed. Plus does the libertarian movement, really need to borrow from leftwing nutjobs when there are still a lot of people who find libertarians a little nutty? I’m not saying it’s accurate, but Howard Zinn sure won’t help that.

  6. Reason that statement out for me Matt. I don’t remember reading anywhere what as you say “HIS big gov’t full of goodness and light” is referenced.

  7. I agree witg Brian on this – had much the same experience with Zinn in college as I became a libertarian.

    1. I became a libertarian after college.

      My view on any political views generated from collage that people stick with after college is that it is either a sign of luck or sheer dumb bullheadedness.

  8. Howard Zinn! Oh baby, you got me hotter’n Georgia asphalt now.

  9. White Zin is a good way to get her good n drunk.

  10. What do hot Ukrainian chicks think of Zinn?

  11. Hey Brian, I believe I sent you an email 😛

    1. Sub-point: I don’t really care at all about Howard Zinn, but he did provide some decent enough fodder for all the bad things governments have done over the years. Annoyingly, Zinn failed to realize that all the violence and imperialism is a “feature”, not a bug, of government and no amount of regime change will mollify that fact.

  12. The premise of Zinn’s work is interesting. Show how government is evil then try to nudge the conversation to some form of government he likes.

    A risky proposition. The logical step from viewing the evils of government is to come to the conclusion that government is evil.

    1. Which is why Zinn was essentially an anarchist who told people to replace centralized government with voluntary local cooperatives.

      Ziga Vodovnik: Do you thing [sic] that pejorative (mis)usage of the word anarchism is [a] direct consequence of the fact that the ideas [sic] that people can be free, was and is very frightening to those in power?

      Howard Zinn: No doubt! No doubt that anarchist ideas are frightening to those in power. People in power can tolerate liberal ideas. They can tolerate ideas that call for reforms, but they cannot tolerate the idea that there will be no state, no central authority. So it is very important for them to ridicule the idea of anarchism to create this impression of anarchism as violent and chaotic. It is useful for them, yes.

      http://www.alternet.org/news/85427/

  13. “Zinn failed to realize that all the violence and imperialism is a “feature”, not a bug, of government and no amount of regime change will mollify that fact.”

    Oh, really? Let me quote from his afterward to A People’s History directly:

    “What struck me as I began to study history was how nationalist fervor – inculcated from childhood on by pledges of allegiance, national anthems, flags waving and rhetoric blowing – permeated the educational systems of all countries, including our own. I wonder now how the foreign policies of the United States would look if we wiped out the national boundaries of the world, at least in our minds, and thought of all children everywhere as our own. Then we could never drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, or napalm on Vietnam, or wage war anywhere, because wars, especially in our time, are always against children, indeed our children” (685).

    1. I wonder if he thought that as he was flying over Germany…uh, dropping bombs?

      1. He wrote clearly about how he wished he had. That’s one reason why he’s worth reading.

    2. My biggest problem with Zinn is that he continually confused patriotism with nationalism.

      1. Pledges of allegiance are by no means patriotism.

        1. Wait, so you haven’t signed your loyalty oath yet?

  14. And as to Zinn’s politics (in their ideal form, at least):

    “Let us be utopian for a moment so that when we get realist again, it is not that ‘realism’ so useful to the Establishment in its discouragement of action, that ‘realism’ anchored to a certain kind of history empty of surprise. Let us imagin what radical change would require of us all.

    “The society’s levers of powers would have to be taken away from those whose drives have led to the present state – the giant corporations, the military, and their politician collaborators. We would need by a coordinated effort of local groups all over the country – to reconstruct the economy for both efficiency and justice, producing in a cooperative way what people need most. We would start on our neighborhoods, our cities, our workplaces. […] Everyone could share the routine but necessary jobs for a few hours a day, and leave most of the time free for enjoyment, creativity, labors of love, and yet produce enough for an equal and ample distribution of goods. […]

    “The great problem would be to work out a way of accomplishing this without a centralized bureaucracy, using not the incentives of prison and punishment, but those incentives of cooperation which spring from natural human desires, which in the past have been used by the state in times of war, but also by social movements that gave hints of how people might behave in different conditions. Decisions would be made by small groups of people in their workplaces, their neighborhoods – a network of cooperatives, in communication with one another, a neighborly socialism avoiding the class hierarchies of capitalism and the harsh dictatorships that have taken the name ‘socialist'” (639).

    I’m not exactly sure where in that (or elsewhere) Zinn praises ‘big gov’t.’

    1. From an interview with Zinn:

      (http://flag.blackened.net/ias/13zinn.htm)

      How would you describe yourself politically? Do you consider yourself an anarchist or a libertarian socialist?

      Something of an anarchist, something of a socialist. Maybe a democratic socialist.

      This seems contradictory. Could you explain?

      I see no contradiction. Look at Alexander Berkman’s pamphlet, Communist Anarchism. [emphasis added]

      * * *

      To see no contradiction between anarchy and socialism means that you are a Marxist.

      1. No, to see no contradiction between anarchy and socialism is to be an idiot

        1. Rothbard and Hess didn’t seem to think so.

          1. So they are idiots.

            Or perhaps merely simpleton Utopians. For anarchy to work you have to believe that human beings are good, simply needing government to get out of the way for universal harmony to occur. The socialist believes in a similar fantasy. That there will be ordered universal harmony.

            Both fantasies require a world where human beings don’t attempt to coerce their neighbor’s. All government or no government does not change the basic nature of Man.

            1. Thank you for those enlightening comments…

            2. I don’t really think Rothbard was particularly confused on that point.

              Socialism requires collectivized distribution of resources, to do that, you require an agent of force to make the decisions about who gets what. It *requires* a government to function. There is no natural way for socialism to actually occur and maintain anarchy since there is no way to accomplish it without force.

              Sooooooooooo… Yeah, socialism or communism & anarchism cannot actually co-exist.

              That said, it is possible for small groups of people to organize themselves into micro-governments like communes within an over-arching anarchistic world. This is more in line with Zinn. The world has no nations but only small collectives and townships.

              Honestly though, that’s a pretty poor way to live so I’ll stick with division of labor, respected private property and actual capitalism.

  15. Damn! I bet on Seeger and Chomsky to kick it before him in the Old Commie Dead Pool.

    1. Your mistake was in overlooking the maxim, “The good die young.”

  16. Zinn: “I wonder now how the foreign policies of the United States would look if we wiped out the national boundaries of the world, at least in our minds, and thought of all children everywhere as our own. Then we could never drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, or napalm on Vietnam, or wage war anywhere, because wars, especially in our time, are always against children, indeed our children”

    Well the unfortunate thing is that the people of Hiroshima sure as hell didn’t think of our children as their own – or the children of folks in Nanking, or Manila, or anywhere else but Japan, for that matter.

    Hell, nowadays, in large segments of our society, you’re lucky to get people to think of *their* children as their children. In the battle of the cads v. the dads, the cads are winning.

    Reason Fail. We need folks like Howard Zinn as arguments for libertarianism…because of folks like Howard Zinn. The man was a dick who taught Americans to hate their own country and to nurse an attitude of grievance against it. If he taught lessons in libertarianism how many readers learned them? Not 1 in a 1000.

    1. Yes, but Reason-style libertarianism matches up quite well with Zinn-Style socilialism. That Lennonesque”world without national boundaries” nonsense is avidly believed in by most of the writers here. It’s not hard to see why Doherty thinks of Zinn as an intellectual cousin.

      1. From The Economist:

        FREDERIC BASTIAT, who was that rarest of creatures, a French free-market economist, wrote to this newspaper in 1846 to express a noble and romantic hope: “May all the nations soon throw down the barriers which separate them.” Those words were echoed 125 years later by the call of John Lennon, who was not an economist but a rather successful global capitalist, to “imagine there’s no countries”

    2. “Hell, nowadays, in large segments of our society, you’re lucky to get people to think of *their* children as their children.”

      They want me to think of their children as my children. Hell, I don’t like any children.

      1. It’s all in the marinade, really.

    3. Well the unfortunate thing is that the people of Hiroshima sure as hell didn’t think of our children as their own – or the children of folks in Nanking, or Manila, or anywhere else but Japan, for that matter.

      Amazing that you think you have even the slightest idea what the “people” of Hiroshima thought. Unless, like leftists do, you’re confusing the government with the people.

    4. Yea, and the U.S. as an American-style libertarian society would have done so well in WW II. No doubt, there never would have been a bomb to drop. Guess that would have been a good thing.

  17. What’s so very telling about Mr. Zinn is that, after recalling all of this history of our country, and indeed all of the world, he can still believe the collectivist crap as quoted by Josh above. Utopians are history’s greatest fools.

  18. I agree with the obit, the “People’s History” by Zinn is useful for the point that the State is not to be trusted.

    That said, libertarians should not look to socialist who turn a blind eye to gulags while praising a never-coming utopia.

    As the greatest Frenchman of the 20th century, Jean-Francois Revel, said,
    “Utopia is not under the slightest obligation to provide results : its sole function is to allow its devotees to condemn what exists in the name of what does not “

    1. I’m saving that quote in my favorites file.

  19. Zinn was a terrible historian, probably responsible for more misunderstanding of American history and more misunderstanding of the role of the historian than any other writer of historical fiction.

    For distrust of government, one does not need cynical Marxism and paens to the downtrodden. And, the major point some attributed to him: than historians cannot be neutral is banal – worthy of the Masters of the obvious. Serious historians know very well they cannot be “objective”, but the also know that good history must be careful with the facts and that, to do that, one must be both aware of his or her own biases (so far so good) and be skeptical of where those biases seem to lead (Zinn is a complete failure here) and question one’s biases as strongly as possible so that one does not merely select facts that fit the theory one prefers to begin with.

    I thought “A People’s History…” was terrible when in first came out, and I think Zinn’s influence has been entirely pernicious.

    1. Whatever you do, don’t tell Matt Damon that

      1. MATT DAMON

    2. Zinn’s work was the first time I read about the atrocities committed by the U.S. government. I didn’t come away from the read feeling more leftist, just more anti-authoritarian. I don’t know of any conservative historians who feel it’s important to point out the atrocities committed by the U.S. government. Can you recommend any?

    3. He was supremely careful with the facts; nothing he said with regard to US state crimes have been proven incorrect. So sorry that Zinn didn’t write paeans to the corporations you love so much but hey, he was a real historian, i.e. he was interested in the truth, not right-wing distortions of it. Run along now, scamp, Glenn Beck’s on!

      1. Read “The People’s Historian?” by Michael C. Moynihan in this magazine which lists several things about US state crimes he was proven wrong on. About the execution of someone he said was innocent he specifically said he didn’t care if he was guilty.

    1. Watched the 1st movie the other day and noticed a big plot hole: the giant fucking hawk. Frodo (and the Ring) and Gandalf fly on the giant fucking hawk to the big ass volcano, toss the ring into the lava and fly back to party with the elves. It’d take a half a day at most, and nobody dies . . . except for old Sauron red eye. The End.

      1. It’s an eagle, more specifically, Gwaihir.

  20. This reminds me why I usually avoid Reason.

  21. Doherty’s admittance that Zinn was important in the formation his political beliefs explains a lot. I haven’t read Zinn. This quote, from wiki, doesn’t inspire me to do so. It also makes me question anyone who took this man seriously.

    Writing in the Washington Post Book World, reviewer Michael Kammen, a professor of American History at Cornell, wrote: “I wish that I could pronounce Zinn’s book a great success, but it is not. It is a synthesis of the radical and revisionist historiography of the past decade. . . Not only does the book read like a scissors and paste-pot job, but even less attractive, so much attention to historians, historiography and historical polemic leaves precious little space for the substance of history. . . . We do deserve a people’s history; but not a singleminded, simpleminded history, too often of fools, knaves and Robin Hoods. We need a judicious people’s history because the people are entitled to have their history whole; not just those parts that will anger or embarrass them.

    1. read like a scissors and paste-pot job

      So, the “job” was both “scissors” and “paste-pot”?

    2. Zinn explicitly wrote that he wasn’t trying to write a “whole history,” but a history that filled in the parts our history teachers neglected to tell us about. Maybe Mr. Kammen read as much of the book as you did.

      Personally, I find it hard to take anyone seriously who condemns a book without having looked inside it.

    3. How does it explain a lot if you haven’t actually read Zinn? Your reliance on a single wiki quote as intellectual ammunition also says a lot.

  22. “To see no contradiction between anarchy and socialism means that you are a Marxist.”

    Hahaha.

    I wish Proudhon, Warren, Tucker and Spooner could have heard that.

    BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    This thread is getting sadder and funnier in equal measure.

    1. Tucker and Spooner were Capitalist Anarchists. Proudhon and Warren were idiots.

      1. That’s ridiculous.

        Spooner:

        “All the great establishments, of every kind, now in the hands of a few proprietors, but employing a great number of wage laborers, would be broken up; for few or no persons, who could hire capital and do business for themselves would consent to labour for wages for another.”
        ? Letter to Cleveland

        “…almost all fortunes are made out of the capital and labour of other men than those who realize them. Indeed, large fortunes could rarely be made at all by one individual, except by his sponging capital and labor from others.”
        ? Poverty: Its illegal cases and legal cure

        Tucker:

        “The fact that one class of men are dependent for their living upon the sale of their labour, while another class of men are relieved of the necessity of labour by being legally privileged to sell something that is not labour. . . . And to such a state of things I am as much opposed as any one. But the minute you remove privilege. . . every man will be a labourer exchanging with fellow-labourers . . . What Anarchistic-Socialism aims to abolish is usury . . . it wants to deprive capital of its reward.”
        ? Instead of a Book

        They were both explicitly against capitalism, which of course puts them in the fine (though, according to some very studied scholars, idiotic) company of thinkers like Proudhon and Warren…

        1. They all agreed on abolishing the government.

          To the extent that they believed a society without a government could or would ever operate socialistically, they were criminally misguided Marxists.

          To the extent that they believed that a society without a government would be operated by free-market capitalism they were thinking clearly.

          I’m honestly not really familiar with them, but the impression that I get is that Proudhon and Warren were straight-up socialists, Spooner was a free-market Capitalist, and Tucker was somewhere in between.

          1. So you’re not familiar with any of these people but you’re willing to call some of them “idiots?”

            I knew you had no idea what Marxism is. But now it’s become clear that you have no idea what capitalism really is. So there’s no reason to continue this discussion.

            1. Some reading for Guy Smiley:

              http://www.spunk.org/texts/writers/proudhon/sp001863.html

              “Proudhon’s Libertarian Thought and the Anarchist Movement”

              He is one of those rare thinkers who provides a bridge between populism and libertarianism and between “left” and “right” libertarianism.

  23. I, for one, can’t wait to piss on his grave.

  24. I saw Zinn on CSPAN once. A caller asked him what he liked about America. He thought for an agonizingly long time and then replied, “I like black people.”

    1. That’s racist, straight up.

      1. I laughed, damn you. It’s funny, ’cause it’s true.

    2. He should have said he forgot some Americans were black…for an hour.

    3. Reminds me of my mom.

  25. Zinn’s book is interesting, definitely. sometimes we forget that there is a human and envrionmental cost to free markets (see: Appalachia). that being said, Zinn seems to forget that there is a human and environmental cost to big gov’t (see: Appalachia).

    one part of Zinn’s book reveals his commitment to both stating the facts and drawing the wrong conclusions. He talks about how in 1830 the Renselaer family owned a big chunk of upstate New York, and had 12,000 tenant farmers. Over that time period the tenants and Renselaer’s used legal and extralegal means, violence, elections, etc. fighting over the land, and by 1865 10,000 of the tenants owned their own land. To me a victory for the individual by any metric, except for Zinn’s, who considered the whole 35 year struggle a failure because 17% of the 12,000 didn’t come to own their land.

    1. Zinn was pretty consistent in his opposition to big government.

      Not that I agree with him politically, but it is important not to criticize him for positions he didn’t hold.

      1. except if the big government was a socialist or communist government “for the people.” The man was an open Marxist.

        1. Marxist? Is this a clown forum or something??

          1. The man was an open Marxist.

            I think this is, somewhat, accurate in that he certainly believed in a utopia similar to the one described by Marx…but neither of those visions include a big government. Zinn did not seem to support/advocate the dictatorship of the proletariat as a transitional stage.

            1. I mean, Zinn did author a play in which Marx comes back from the dead to tries to clarify the way people were misunderstanding/misapplying his ideas.

              So he was a Marxist, not a “Marxist.”

            2. No, it’s not at all accurate, because Marxism is a branch of theory based on (yet separate from) the writings of Marx. Most variations of Marxism are inherently authoritarian (as was Marx, as I understand his work, in the later half of his life). Zinn has never written about the dialectical or the ‘proletariat’ taking the state. The worst you could say of him is that he tends, at times, toward social democracy (out of practicality).

              1. You used more words to say what I said.

                That’s why I used the scare quotes on “Marxism.”

                1. Yeah, I submitted my comment without seeing yours. I still thinks its an incredibly misleading title (and is almost always, in these situations, used in red baiting).

              2. Yes, he trended towards social democracy because anarchic-syndicalism is so damned utopian and impractical. It’s an escape valve for people who hate capitalism but want to be seen as anti-authoritarian, so they presume that socialism will flourish through “cooperation” as opposed to “bureaucracy” (which, in this sensin this sense, is really just another term for the dangerous end of a gun). e, is really just another term for the end of a gun).

                1. What J-F Revel describes as the excusing of socialism or Marxism (without the ‘scare’ quotes) on the basis of its intentions despite its record. See the recently translated Last Exit to Utopia.

                  So, if I understand you, Zinn wanted to be seen as anti-authoritarian but anti-capitalist, and so did not embrace existing communist regimes (??), but somehow believed, despite all the historical evidence — he was supposed to be a historian, after all — that some sort of cooperative socialism would work fine somehow in the future, without the need for the coercion that has been inherent in all socialist societies. I guess Zinn never read Bertrand Russell’s account (in Unpopular Essays) of having been chilled to hear Lenin chortling about murdering Kulaks.

                  As disgusting as I find philosophers who are Marxists, the phenomenon of historians who support equality of result socialism in the face of the historical record is truly revolting. Every historian should read The Black Book of Communism and a couple of the more recent biographies of Mao – the one by Mao’s doctor and the Halliday and Jung.

                  1. The ignorance is palpable. Please read up on anarchism in Spain during the civil war. It will, I believe, prove most informative.

                    I’m pretty shocked to find so much red-baiting here; but I guess I shouldn’t be.

                    1. Shocked to find a thoroughgoing opposition to Marxism and socialism on a libertarian website? Please.

                    2. No I’m shocked at the ignorance as to what Marxism is and what socialism means to LIBERTARIANS like Zinn, Chomsky, Hess, Tucker, Spooner, Warren…

                    3. Chomsky and Zinn are not libertarians in any sense of the word meaningful to anybody here.

                    4. Chomsky and Zinn are not libertarians in any sense of the word meaningful to anybody here.

                      I was unaware, until today, that they were “libertarians” in ANY sense of the word, to anyone.

                    5. Well I’m sure they just forgot to consult the Libertarian Branding Committee here at Reason.

                    6. The assertion that Chomsky or Zinn might be considered a libertarian in any sense is risible.

                    7. Opposing the drug war is libertarian. Opposing invading countries that pose no threat to us is libertarian. Opposing morality crimes is libertarian. Supporting civil rights is libertarian.

                      Zinn and Chomsky are more libertarian than the Republican party, certainly.

                    8. Please read up on anarchism in Spain during the civil war.

                      Half a million dead Spaniards. And there are a lot of different types of anarchists, some in direct opposition to each other.

                    9. Jesus, I’ve come to expect some pretty terrible things from Libertarian party folks, but that the Anarchist were wrong to oppose Fascism is a new low.

                      Well done sir.

            3. I think this is, somewhat, accurate in that he certainly believed in a utopia similar to the one described by Marx…

              …and implemented by the Khmer Rouge?

    2. The whole question of what various measures of partial success of workers, tenants, etc., and of measures of social mobility (both up and down) in the 19th century mean for society was a large one in the late 1960’s and 1970’s (and beyond, I suppose).

      I remember reviewing a revisionist collaboration (I don’t recall who the authors were now) on late 19th century social mobility in New England that showed that over 3 generations something like 30-40% of people had moved up at least two socioeconomic classes and about 20% had fallen at least one. The authors were horrified that there was so little social mobility. As a European historian at the time, my perspective was different: compared to European societies that was a huge amount of mobility and showed far more liberty than anywhere in Europe or elsewhere in the world.

      I think the authors may even have been Zinn students or colleagues….

  26. I am embarrassed to say I read his book. What a pile of inaccurate one sided tripe.

    It appeals to the gullible and the inexperienced.

    1. My name is also fred and I endorse this comment.

      1. I will stick with lowercase letters so as not to confuse the unfortunate general populace not named Fred.

        We need some Chomsky bashing and thanks to the one that posted the Chomsky/Zinn LOTR discussion. Good stuff.

  27. Zinn was Exhibit A for why immigration is a bad idea.

      1. Thank you for those enlightening comments…

        1. You can’t really expect enlightening comments in response to your original post, can you?

  28. In response to the invectives aimed at Zinn… you’ve got to give credit where credit is due…

    Howard Zinn, anti-imperialist:
    http://dissentradio.com/radio/08_04_07_zinn.mp3

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/48760.html

    1. The knee-jerk nationalists here resent you telling them that they should give credit to an old, dead asshole who had the gall to point out that the even the U.S. government (the greatest government ever!) couldn’t help but do countless evil things to countless innocent people.

  29. This has become a bore. Have fun bashing a dead, anti-war professor.

    1. Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out.

      You might feel more at home over at Daily Kos.

      1. Christ, and you might feel more at home over at Free Republic.

        Zinn was more of a libertarian and certainly more honest than any Republican since Calvin Coolidge.

        1. And, before I’m ignorantly and reflexively labeled, Zinn was more of a Libertarian than any Democrat, ever.

          1. Opposing the drug war is libertarian. Opposing invading countries that pose no threat to us is libertarian. Opposing morality crimes is libertarian. Supporting civil rights is libertarian.

            Zinn and Chomsky are more libertarian than the Republican party, certainly.

            Perhaps you could lead me to where I, or anyone else, claimed anything about the Republicans? How did Zinn identify himself? Certainly not as Libertarian. Once they thought it would be politically expedient the Democrats opposed the war, are they “Libertarians” now also? Zinn favored “good government”, however organized, over every aspect of society.

            I find it hard to take anyone seriously who condemns a book without having looked inside it.

            Sad. You actually define “doesn’t inspire me to do so” as “condemns”?

            1. It defines you as an anti-intellectual, know-nothing moron.

              P.S. Zinn never said anything about favoring “good government over every aspect of society.” You’re a buffoon and a liar, just like Tim Starr…and basically every other closet fascist on here.

              1. Ouch. Anti-intellectual. Know-nothing moron. Closet fascist. I better get reading. I had no idea Zinn was such a sacred cow.

                And no hyperbole intended for sure. This guy really was the shit!

                It sucks bad enough being a libertarian. I can only imagine how much worse it is to be a real libertarian. Even libertarians (read closet-fascist because only a fascist would ever pick on anyone) pick on you.

  30. Well the problem with all these socialist anarchist systems is that getting everyone to “cooperate” with such schemes on the local level usually involved a lot of local-level coercion.

    Remember that in the USSR, there we’re locally appointed committees to run all the co-ops and manage the cooperative owned apartment complexes, and all that shit. They just devolved into official government minders and spies.

    It’s not difficult to figure out why. People have and do continue to try communal or co-op type arrangements for small businesses and housing all over the US. They just never *grow* because they immediately encounter the economic dysfunction such attempts result in. The hippie commune soon realizes that “to each according to his need, from each according to his ability” results in one person funding the place and doing all the work while everyone else loafs. The co-ops never expand because they fail to turn enough of a profit to expand.

    To the hard-core socialist-anarchist, the response is more coercion (damn those refusniks) and/or more centralized control …. devolving into the same totalitarian state as Marxism-Leninism.

  31. Zinn was in no way whatsoever anti-authoritarian or even “anti-war.” His above-it-all pretension was just a ruse to cover up the fact that he thought intra-state war and nationalism were distractions and impediments from the kind of war he desperately wanted to see: a class war.
    That’s why he hated patriotism, et al. He wanted Americans to first think of themselves as either workers, or the downtrodden instead of Americans. (This reminds me of a sign that I once saw at an “anti-war” rally: No War But the Class War)Do you think that if a large percentage of the American people started shooting and hanging captialists left-and-right that this die-hard Marxist would go into another one of his pious sermons about “peace”, “tolerance”, “justice”, et all. No, I’m sure that instead he would relish the spectacle of the revolution coming home. Speaking of which, I recall that in a “Peoples’ History” that he heaps praise on Mao’s government (which starved and slaughtered 40-50 million peasants)and he has also heaped praise on North Vietnamese communists and Castro as well. Anit-authoritarian? A “champion of the downtrodden”? What a self-righteous, hyprocritical, envy-ridden loser.

  32. Zinn not only embraced actually-existing Communist regimes, he embraced the worst example: Maoist China. Looking to him for criticisms of the US government is like looking to Goebbels (or David Irving) for them. His professed anarchism doesn’t exculpate him; the anarcho-syndicalists were more murderous than the Stalinists in the Spanish Civil War, which was (thankfully) the only opportunity anarcho-syndicalists have ever had to get their way for a while. Left-anarchists are just commies who’ve lost their State sponsorship but still hate capitalism.

    Good riddance to bad rubbish!

  33. i love scott brown

  34. This is the first Reason comment thread I’ve actually read though. This thread is a good example of how libertarian organizations tend toward even more self-congratulation and group masturbation than other allegedly like-minded groups.

    When half of people see themselves as beleaguered and suavely cynical Randian heroes here, no wonder the movement doesn’t gain traction.

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