"We resemble other times in history before the movements were effective — when they were just growing, when they were just developing. The anti-slavery movement had to develop over 30 years. The anti-war movement against Vietnam had to develop over four or five years. The Civil Rights movement had to develop over decades and decades. So, we are in a stage of development. You can’t just look at where we are right now and say, 'Well, we’re not doing it, we’re incapable, we’re hopeless.'"
Q: Is there any hope the US will change its approach to the rest of the world?
"If there is any hope, the hope lies in the American people. [It] lies in American people becoming resentful enough and indignant enough over what has happened to their country, over the loss of dignity in the world, over the starving of human resources in the United States, the starving of education and health, the takeover of the political mechanism by corporate power and the result this has on the everyday lives of the American people."
Do you have any advice for Obama?
"Yes. Speak boldly to the American people, the American people want to get out of Iraq. Speak boldly and say, 'I'm going to withdraw from Iraq as fast as ships and planes can carry them,' and I think that Obama will have a much better chance of winning the election because he will be speaking to the hearts of the American people, who really are sick of the war."
"There is one central characteristic of anarchism on the matter of means, and that central principle is a principle of direct action. ... In the South, they did not wait for the government to give them a signal, or to go through the courts, to file lawsuits, wait for Congress to pass the legislation. They took direct action; they went into restaurants, were sitting down there and wouldn’t move. They got on those busses and acted out the situation that they wanted to exist."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Howard Zinn discussed his latest collection of essays at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. “A Power Governments Cannot Suppress” critiques America’s response to 9/11, examines the current state of democracy and government responsibility in America and cites examples of when government has overstepped throughout American history.…