Articles & Interviews

Howard Zinn’s Personal Philosophy

Interview by BigThink • 5/8/08
How do you blend anarchism, socialism and communism?
HOWARD ZINN: I think there are elements in all three that are useful.

Is that a practical way of thinking?
HOWARD ZINN: It’s certainly not practical in the sense of something that’s immediately achievable. But I think it’s very important to hold as a goal.

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Howard Zinn on U.S. Presidential Candidates

Interview by BigThink • 5/8/08
Who do you endorse for President [in the 2008 U.S. election]?
HOWARD ZINN: Between Clinton and Obama, well both of them have promised to end the [Iraq] war, but I must say their proposals for bringing the troops out of Iraq are rather halfhearted and they talk about keeping troops there, or Barack Obama says, “Let’s take troops out of Iraq, send troops to Afghanistan.” Neither of them has shaken what Barack Obama rightly called the mindset that led to the Iraq war. The mindset is a mindset which sees war and military intervention as a solution. Neither of them has shaken that.

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Howard Zinn on Race in America

Interview by BigThink • 5/8/08
Topic: Race in America

HOWARD ZINN: There are more openings in media and business and the professions for a certain number of Black people. But I speak about 10 or 20 percent. For the vast majority of Black people, their lives are still constricted by poverty and racism. The civil rights movement accomplished a good deal by beginning to remove some of the important social barriers. What it did not remove was the barrier of class, the barrier of economic injustice.

Martin Luther King recognized this. That’s why toward the end of his life he began working for economic rights for Black people.

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Learning From World War II

Interview by BigThink • 5/8/08
What did you learn from your experience in WW II?

HOWARD ZINN: I didn’t learn much about myself during that time, that is, while I was at war. You don’t learn much while you’re in the military except doing your job. By that, I mean you don’t think outside of your job. I didn’t really learn very much until after the war and when I began to think about the war, and this was the best of wars. I began to think about what war accomplishes and, as I say, this was the best of wars. When I examined the best of wars, I found it so ridden through with immorality and atrocity, not just on the Nazi side, but on our side. I began to question the whole idea of war itself, war for any reason, war against evil. I decided that even if you’re fighting a great evil, by going to war, you match that evil and you perpetuate the evil in a different form.

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Howard Zinn on Iraq: Advice for the Next U.S. President

Interview by BigThink • 5/8/08
What should the next U.S. President do to get the military out of Iraq?

HOWARD ZINN: I think the next president should begin, announce the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. I think this will be a very healthy thing for Iraq.

The American occupation has not helped a thing. It has not stopped civil war; it has provoked civil war. It has not given the Iraqi people security or democracy; it has given them the opposite. It has ruined their country. And, of course, it has ruined our country, too.

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Howard Zinn on the Limitations of American History Books

Interview by BigThink • 5/8/08
“A more realistic and more truthful history would take a look at American foreign policy over the last several hundred years, really. It will take a look at American foreign policy and see it for what it has been–expansionist, violent and militaristic. In other words, it would be a history that would be honest in the way that we expect individuals to be honest about themselves and their past and to rectify their mistakes.”

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Howard Zinn on the World Today

Interview by BigThink • 5/8/08
What is the state of the world today?

HOWARD ZINN: The world today, 2008, it’s trying to overcome American dominance in the world, trying to overcome the American military bullying that’s taking place here and there in the world, in Iraq and Afghanistan and military bases in a hundred countries.

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Zinn Speaks: An Interview on the State of the Empire

By Wajajat Ali • Published at Counterpunch • April 19, 2008
Zinn reflects on his historic and memorable time at Spelman College in the ‘60s, his thoughts on the Democratic Party, his philosophy of dissent as democracy, and his hope for America’s future.

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Beyond the New Deal

Published in The Nation • April 7, 2008
We might wonder why no Democratic Party contender for the presidency has invoked the memory of the New Deal and its unprecedented series of laws aimed at helping people in need. The New Deal was tentative, cautious, bold enough to shake the pillars of the system but not to replace them.

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"Work Pays America! Prosperity." • Poster by Vera Bock • Library of Congress

Are Hillary and Obama Afraid of Talking About the New Deal?

Published by ZCommunications • April 2, 2008
We might wonder why no Democratic Party contender for the presidency has invoked the memory of the New Deal and its unprecedented series of laws aimed at helping people in need. The New Deal was tentative, cautious, bold enough to shake the pillars of the system but not to replace them. It created many jobs but left 9 million unemployed. It built public housing but not nearly enough. It helped large commercial farmers but not tenant farmers. Excluded from its programs were the poorest of the poor, especially blacks. As farm laborers, migrants or domestic workers, they didn’t qualify for unemployment insurance, a minimum wage, Social Security or farm subsidies.

Still, in today’s climate of endless war and uncontrolled greed, drawing upon the heritage of the 1930s would be a huge step forward.

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What the Classroom Didn’t Teach Me About the American Empire

Published on TomDispatch.com • April 1, 2008
With an occupying army waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan, with military bases and corporate bullying in every part of the world, there is hardly a question any more of the existence of an American Empire. Indeed, the once fervent denials have turned into a boastful, unashamed embrace of the idea.

However, the very idea that the United States was an empire did not occur to me until after I finished my work as a bombardier with the Eighth Air Force in the Second World War, and came home. Even as I began to have second thoughts about the purity of the “Good War,” even after being horrified by Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even after rethinking my own bombing of towns in Europe, I still did not put all that together in the context of an American “Empire.”

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New Jersey Polling Station, 2008 • WikiCommons

Election Madness

Published in The Progressive • March 8, 2008
The very people who should know better, having criticized the hold of the media on the national mind, find themselves transfixed by the press, glued to the television set, as the candidates preen and smile and bring forth a shower of clichés with a solemnity appropriate for epic poetry.There’s a man in Florida who has been writing to me for years (ten pages, handwritten) though I’ve never met him. He tells me the kinds of jobs he has held—security guard, repairman, etc. He has worked all kinds of shifts, night and day, to barely keep his family going. His letters to me have always been angry, railing against our capitalist system for its failure to assure “life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness” for working people.

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Voting in the United States | WikiCommons

Let’s Come to Our Senses About the Election

Published in The Progressive • March 5, 2008
Now that Ohio and Texas are over, can we take a deep breath and come to our senses?

Election fever has seized the country, as it does every four years.

We have all been brought up to believe that voting is crucial in determining our destiny, that the most important act a citizen can engage in is to go to the polls and choose one of the two candidates who have already been chosen for us.

Now I’m not saying elections are totally insignificant, and that we should refuse to vote to preserve our moral purity.

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Antiwar Protest, Sept. 15, 2007 • WikiCommons

A Just Cause, Not a Just War

Published in The Progressive • July 16, 2007
I believe two moral judgments can be made about the present “war”: The September 11 attack constitutes a crime against humanity and cannot be justified, and the bombing of Afghanistan is also a crime, which cannot be justified.

And yet, voices across the political spectrum, including many on the left, have described this as a “just war.” One longtime advocate of peace, Richard Falk, wrote in The Nation that this is “the first truly just war since World War II.” Robert Kuttner, another consistent supporter of social justice, declared in The American Prospect that only people on the extreme left could believe this is not a just war.

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Diagram of Citizenship • Callum Bowsie • WikiCommons

Are We Politicians or Citizens?

Published in The Progressive • May 1, 2007
When a social movement adopts the compromises of legislators, it has forgotten its role, which is to push and challenge the politicians, not to fall in meekly behind them. As I write this, Congress is debating timetables for withdrawal from Iraq. In response to the Bush Administration’s “surge” of troops, and the Republicans’ refusal to limit our occupation, the Democrats are behaving with their customary timidity, proposing withdrawal, but only after a year, or eighteen months. And it seems they expect the anti-war movement to support them.

That was suggested in a recent message from MoveOn, which polled its members on the Democrat proposal, saying that progressives in Congress, “like many of us, don’t think the bill goes far enough, but see it as the first concrete step to ending the war.”

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Antiwar Talk at the Boston Commons

Published by ZCommunications • March 27, 2007
If somebody invaded your home, and smashed things up, and terrorized your children, would we give them a timetable? When I look at this latest Democratic proposal for a timetable, you know, maybe 18 months from now, at the same time funding the war for another 140 billion dollars, you know, it’s as if you gave an intruder in your house a timetable for withdraw, and meanwhile, made a nice dinner for him. No, we can’t do that, we have to get out. We don’t belong in Iraq. The people in Iraq do not want us there, the American people expressed themselves clearly that the American people don’t want us there. It seems the only people who want us there are the members of Congress and the Bush administration.

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"Impeach them both" • Citizens Movement to Impeach Bush/Cheney • Portland Newswire Archive

Impeachment by the People

Published in The Progressive • March 7, 2007
The time is right, then, for a national campaign calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

Courage is in short supply in Washington, D.C. The realities of the Iraq War cry out for the overthrow of a government that is criminally responsible for death, mutilation, torture, humiliation, chaos. But all we hear in the nation’s capital, which is the source of those catastrophes, is a whimper from the Democratic Party, muttering and nattering about “unity” and “bipartisanship,” in a situation that calls for bold action to immediately reverse the present course.

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War Is Not a Solution for Terrorism

Published by ZCommunications • September 7, 2006
There is something important to be learned from the recent experience of the United States and Israel in the Middle East: that massive military attacks, inevitably indiscriminate, are not only morally reprehensible, but useless in achieving the stated aims of those who carry them out.

The United States, in three years of war, which began with shock-and-awe bombardment and goes on with day-to-day violence and chaos, has been an utter failure in its claimed objective of bringing democracy and stability to Iraq. The Israeli invasion and bombing of Lebanon has not brought security to Israel; indeed it has increased the number of its enemies, whether in Hezbollah or Hamas or among Arabs who belong to neither of those groups.

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Put Away the Flags

Published in The Progressive • July 2, 2006
On this July 4, we would do well to renounce nationalism and all its symbols: its flags, its pledges of allegiance, its anthems, its insistence in song that God must single out America to be blessed.

Is not nationalism — that devotion to a flag, an anthem, a boundary so fierce it engenders mass murder — one of the great evils of our time, along with racism, along with religious hatred?

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An Interview with Howard Zinn

Interview by Shelly R. Fredman • Published by ZCommunications • May 22, 2006
“For those who find a special inspiration in Judaism or Christianity or Buddhism or whatever, fine. If that inspiration leads them to work for justice, that is what matters.”

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