Howard Zinn

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Jump to: navigation, search [Howard Zinn's] writings still offer an activist view of history for those who want to see the history of the world through his revisionist eyes.

Howard Zinn

Howard Zinn was an American historian, playwright, and socialist born on August 24, 1922 and died January 27, 2010. Zinn wrote over twenty books, including the influential A People's History of the United States and A Young People's History of the United States. Zinn's books met with considerable criticism from established historians but he would go on to collaborate with other activists to present their view of history and politics.


Zinn collaborated with Anthony Arnove in publishing a collection of hundreds of source documents titled Voices of a People's History of the United States. Writer Aaron Sarver observes, "Voices is a vast anthology that tells heartbreaking and uplifting stories of American history." Sarver would note, "one of the few concessions Kazin [a critic of Zinn's writings] made was his approval of Zinn punctuating 'his narrative with hundreds of quotes from slaves and Populists, anonymous wage-earners and ... articulate radicals'".[1] Zinn's introductions to each piece, and the choice of whose voice you will hear clearly expresses the political agenda of the authors for those who know the rest of the story and the often missing social and historical contexts.

Zinn also worked with Mike Konopacki and Paul Buhle on creating A People's History of American Empire, a graphic novel that covers various historic subjects. Targetting the minds of youth with their socialist agenda is a common theme of many of his supporters.

A historian with an agenda, like news reporters with an agenda, can create a false narrative by leaving out inconvenient facts and reports from other points of view. To know the whole truth one needs to know the whole story which comes from hearing more than one view. One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist. People are not noble simply because they are oppressed, nor are they villains simply because they are successful.

Some of the best historical books were I have read were written more than a hundred years ago but I still take the time to read actual accounts of those people who lived history. Even their view may be biased by their prejudices which is why you read and study a variety of original sourced opinions and testimony. The modern public educational system has used its monopoly to spread a view of history that is more than skewed. By the omission of events and first-hand reports and sometimes the willful coercion of facts and events, it is easy to give unsuspecting minds a false view of history so that they might believe a lie.

Historian of historians

The "Historian of historians", Polybius warned that this philosophy where the masses have "an appetite for benefits and the habit of receiving them by way of a rule of force and violence" will "degenerate again into perfect savages and find once more a master" and a ruler. Human nature will cause a decline in certain noble aspects of a healthy and functioning community within society without the regular practice of fervent charity. With this decline in the character of the individual, the spirit of tyranny will creep into the minds and the hearts of the people and into the general society until subsequent generations forget the wisdom of their own success.

Early Christians knew this because both Jesus and John the Baptist taught that you had to care for the needy of society through aq network of charity without the use of force if you wanted to be free as a society. Plutarch another historian knew that the greatest destroyer of freedom in a nation is he who spreads amongst them gifts gratuities and benefits.

No good and thorough historian would not know these truths unless they did not want to know them, hence the cognitive disonance.

Howard was a revisionist and certainly many historians, like news reporters, often display bias in the accumulation of facts and information concerning both present and past events. While there is clear evidence of bias in the reporting of history by academics Zinn's own political and personal prejudice and blindness certainly biased his account of history.

Only when the people are willing to hear and tell the whole truth shall we the people be able to provide for it.

History is a story

"When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear." Thomas Sowell

All of History is a story but not all stories are history. When the people no longer want to hear the truth they will make up their own history where liars are heroes.

The statist theory of history is that it is a series of events culminating around kings, presidents and rulers, their wars and schemes and politics. Howard Zinn wanted to see history as a class struggle of impoverished farmers, feminists, laborers, and resisters of slavery and war warding off the oppression of the opportunistic, depraved, and sinister powerful elite. But the real struggle of mankind is the endless quest to find the truth and the willingness to accept it at all cost.

While Lenin knew in his mind that “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.” Patrick Henry said “We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth… For my part, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst; and to provide for it.”

So the question for you as an individual is do you want to know the whole truth and provide for it?

To take that journey we need to understand, like Daniel Webster that “There is nothing so powerful as truth, and often nothing so strange.”

Because something is unfamiliar or strange do you have the courage to explore the facts even if they prove to contradict what you want to believe?

The truth is, History is the story of every man who lives through it and they must be judged according to the content of their character, actions, and motivations as individuals. They are the author of history.

People are complex creatures living in a sea of relationships that can manifest both good and bad, righteousness and unrighteousness, sloth and avarice, virtue and vice. Any attempt to collectivize people as those Germans, those Indians, those Irish or those Africans immediately bias the author.

That sea of relationships in which we all move include not only family and friends, enemies and allies, strangers and pilgrims but the social structures of law and government, community and religion.


While there was a bias taught in history from the early part of the 20th century and there was a need for revision, that need could only be met honestly by a willingness to see the whole truth. The idea that all wealthy people are villains and monsters or that America is hated by everyone around the world[2] is false.

"Professional historians have often viewed Zinn's work with exasperation or condescension, and Zinn was no innocent in the dynamic. I stood against the wall for a Zinn talk at the University of Oregon around the time of the 1992 Columbus Quincentenary. Listening to Zinn, one would have thought historians still considered Samuel Eliot Morison's 1955 book on Columbus to be definitive. The crowd lapped it up, but Zinn knew better. He missed a chance to explain how the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s have transformed the writing and teaching of history, how his People's History did not spring out of thin air but was an effort to synthesize a widely shared shift in historical sensibilities. Zinn's historical theorizing, conflating objectivity with neutrality and position with bias, was no better." [3] Michael Kazin a history professor at Georgetown University saw "the book as an overly simplistic narrative of elite villains and oppressed people" with no attempt to define the individuals within that history.

Columbus was not commemorated because evil men came with him or after him but because he had the courage to explore the possibilities. He was man. Like us all, containing both good and bad, he struggled. Some saw him as a threat and a destroyer but to others he was a savior.

The Aztecs were oppressing, enslaving, and killing people by the tens of thousands[4] because they had the power to do so until the Spanish came with more power. Thanks to Columbus, who may have been an answer to these victims' prayers that abuse ended. The Aztecs were only defeated because of thousands of natives including the their Tlaxcaltec warrior allies chose to help the Spanish in order to defeat their oppressors. But oppression is a product of both power and sloth, without repentance there will always be a new holocausts in another generation. [5]

"Professors Michael Kazin and Michael Kammen condemn the book as a black-and-white story of elite villains and oppressed victims, a story that robs American history of its depth and intricacy and leaves nothing but an empty text simplified to the level of propaganda."[6]

"The ironic effect of such portraits of rulers is to rob 'the people' of cultural richness and variety, characteristics that might gain the respect and not just the sympathy of contemporary readers. For Zinn, ordinary Americans seem to live only to fight the rich and haughty and, inevitably, to be fooled by them." Michael Kazin

Conflict of terms

While Zinn described himself as "something of an anarchist, something of a socialist. Maybe a democratic socialist". Yet, these labeled concepts are actually in conflict with each other and even dramatically and diametrically opposed.

Socialism is defined as a, "political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated" not by the individuals of society but by the collective. As a political and economic theory it may seem utopian as described by some academics but any historian who honestly examins the known facts of its historical record from the "free bread" of Rome to the collectivization of Lenon and Stalin's Russia or Mao's China should be repulsed by any casual praise of the socialists philosophy much less the advocacy of socialism.

Anarchism is a political philosophy which considers an authoritarian state or rulers undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, and instead promotes a society without rulers. Socialism is never without rulers whether it is the collective as a whole or those whom the collective elect.

While democratic socialism may exist on a small scale it will almost inevitably lead to the centralization of power. Socialism is a philosophy that includes a redistribution of wealth that is always accomplished by and through political authority which rules over the people by force. The fact that socialism claims to be democratic only means that 51% of the people can take what the other 49% produce.

While Mr. Zinn seemed to have a better understanding of anarchism[7] than he did of socialism, any historian that advocates almost every form of socialism would have to be suffering from a severe case of cognitive dissonance or historical dysphoria.

What Howard would not claim himself to be is a capitalist except when it came to selling his books. He, like many who swallowed the lie of socialism, failed to understand the wisdom of capitalism nor its roll in the prosperity of societies throughout history. He actually said that capitalism has always been a failure for the poor and is now failing the middle class.[8]

If we examine the definition of capitalism without hate, prejudice and preconceived notions we can see that it is not a political system. Capitalism is merely an economic system based on individual ownership, control, and operation of the means of production. Socialism is a political system and an economic system in which the political power will exercise the authority to redistribute that production. In Capitalism, there is also a redistribution of wealth but the only authority in that process is held by the same individual ho produced it.

Capitalism does "reward virtue" while modern Socialism reward the lack of both virtue and industry.

"History suggests that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom. Clearly it is not a sufficient condition." Milton Friedman

Rome rose to prominence and wealth in a republic by way of capitalism and declined under the free bread and welfare of socialism which led to despotism.

Originally capitalism was defined as, "an economic system in which investment in and ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange of wealth is made and maintained chiefly by private individuals or corporations, especially as contrasted to cooperatively or state-owned means of wealth." [9] It was not until the 14th Amendment that a corporation obtained the status of "person" through a political system.

Zinn's attempts to demonize capitalism as an immoral system shows either his ignorance or prejudice or both.[10]

Again capitalism is not a political system but it is often blamed for the politics in which it struggles to exist. Zinn advocated democracy[11] because Karl Marx was adamant that “Democracy is the road to socialism” which is where Zinn was taking is readers.

For anyone to desire socialism or any of the socialist schemes of redistribution of wealth by force it is required that they already mentally and morally accept the idea that it is okay, even virtuous, to covet your neighbor's goods. Of course, to do so abdicates all hope for salvation in Christ who was not a socialist and condemned its schemes and practices.

Peter says it would make them merchandise and curse children while Paul said it was a snare. Proverbs tells us it runs toward death and the history of communism, the despotic offspring of socialism, should be proof to all real students of history.

Christ was clear about many professing Christian actually being workers of iniquity. The modern Christians may not be real Christians if they accept the prejudices of Zinn's version of history which feeds hate and prejudice and the greed of socialism as if it was a social virtue.

Media Malpractice links

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Drowned by Hate
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Critical theory vs Critical thinking
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Has Howard Zinn and others have used Schools as Tools?
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  1. Aaron Sarver, The Secret History", In These Times, 16 September 2005
  2. "That America is not a better place—that it finds itself almost globally despised, mired in war, self-doubt and random violence—is also a fact, of course, but not one that Zinn's brand of history seems equal to. His stick-figure pageant of capitalist cupidity can account, in its fashion, for terrorism—as when, in the second volume, subtitled "Class Struggle to the War on Terror," he notes that Sept. 11 was an assault on "symbols of American wealth and power"—but it doesn't address the themes of religious zealotry, technological change and cultural confusion that animate what I was taught in high school to label "current events" but that contemporary students may as well just call "the weirdness." The line from Columbus to Columbine, from the first Independence Day to the Internet, and from the Boston Tea Party to Baghdad is a wandering line, not a party line. As for the "new possibilities" it points to, I can't see them clearly." Novelist Walter Kirn wrote in The New York Times Book Review in a review of A Young People's History Of The United States, volumes 1 and 2.
  3. Christopher Phelps, associate professor of American studies in the School of American and Canadian Studies at the University of Nottingham in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
  4. "Some post-conquest sources report that at the re-consecration of Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan in 1487, the Aztecs sacrificed about 80,400 prisoners over the course of four days. This number is considered by Ross Hassig, author of Aztec Warfare, to be an exaggeration. Hassig states "between 10,000 and 80,400 persons" were sacrificed in the ceremony." Wikipedia
  5. See Native American Confederacy
  6. Wikipedia
  7. "Transcendentalism is, we might say, an early form of anarchism. The Transcendentalists also did not call themselves anarchists, but there are anarchist ideas in their thinking and in their literature. They were all suspicious of authority. We might say that the Transcendentalism played a role in creating an atmosphere of skepticism towards authority, towards government." Howard Zinn
  8. "Capitalism has always been a failure for the lower classes. It is now beginning to fail for the middle classes." Howard Zinn
  9. Origin of capitalism. 1850-1855.
  10. "Yes, we're dreamers. We want it all. We want a peaceful world. We want an egalitarian world. We don't want war. We don't want capitalism. We want a decent society." Howard Zinn
  11. "If democracy were to be given any meaning, if it were to go beyond the limits of capitalism and nationalism, this would not come, if history were any guide, from the top. It would come through citizen's movements, educating, organizing, agitating, striking, boycotting, demonstrating, threatening those in power with disruption of the stability they needed." Howard Zinn