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RIP Howard Zinn


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Guest John Gillespie

A very sad moment - a very great man lost; but a wonderful life lived fully and giving us such great gifts! His series on A People's History Of America should not be missed, if you really want to know our History - not our Mythology. Howard Zinn, Presente!

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationwo...,3882068.story

Howard Zinn, author of 'People's History' and left-wing historian, dies at 87 in California

51890757.jpg FILE - This 2006 picture shows Howard Zinn in New York. Zinn, an author, teacher and political activist whose leftist "A People's History of the United States" sold millions of copies to become an alternative to mainstream texts and a favorite of such celebrities as Bruce Springsteen and Ben Affleck, died Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010. He was 87. (AP Photo/Dima Gavrysh) (Dima Gavrysh, AP / June 26, 2006)

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Thanks for this posting Peter. Professor Zinn was a unique and compelling figure and I am blessed for having had the chance to meet and speak with him on a couple of occasions here in Boston. Sadly, the local media coverage was a bit understated in celebrating such a special, purposeful life. He was living proof that this Right/Left, Conservative/Liberal paradigm is a deadly distraction to the preservation of our constitutional liberties. And you are spot on about our history vs our mythology. May a true American hero rest in peace.

JG

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Most of the articles I have read so far about the death of Zinn mention his criticisms of the Kennedy Administration for not going fast enough in advancing the Civil Rights Movement. Fair enough, but what is noteworthy to me is how, once again, the US """"left""""", when they hear anything at all of Kennedy's policies, only hear him described as a conservative. This is true not only from Zinn but for many other writers that are perceived as """"left"""" in the U.S. The employable and broadcastworthy leftists of the U.S. always seem to leave out the more progressive aspects of JFK's administrtion, whether it pertains to domestic or foreign policy.

Now this might surprise some older members especially who live outside the U.S. but we are clearly no longer living in the days of Camelot, in which it is alledged, that the press was fawning at JFK's feet. IMO, no other president has received worse treatment from the US Corporate Press AND EVEN SO CALLED ALTERNATIVE PRESS than has JFK. I offer this generalization about the last 25 years or so.

I am wondering if people know of any other comments of Zinn re: the Kennedy Administration. How does it compare to his treatment of the Johnson Administration? As we know the Civil Rights Movement is complicated when trying to discern cause and effects involving both grass roots developments and the specific policies of presidents. 1960 was very different from 1964, and in addition there was the whole Boston-Austin thing going no within the democratic party. Yet so often what I read from TODAY'S SO CALLED LEFTISTS in the U.S. fails to take this into consideration.

I was also wondering what readers might consider some of the key developments of Kennedy's civil rights policies, including especially those that might be lesser known thesedays, whether they be "progressive" or conservative in nature.

Edited by Nathaniel Heidenheimer
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I'll have to dig out my copy of a peoples history to contribute re Zinn, I should have stayed with reading it at the time of getting it.

In my reading of contemporary left articles and talking with leftists here, he was just another president of a capitalist country, which by its nature, following the principles of dialectical materialism, is destined to ultimately protect the establishment, and attacked JFK strongly with vitriol, on inaction, often ferociously. I can certainly understand this perspective, however, out of a rotten bunch he was somewhat unique imo.

A long standing response to calls of action by the Government was ''wait'', we'll do it, but not right now blah de blah.

Kennedy, in his Civil Rights speech, mid '63 said something quite different: he said (paraphrasing, essentially, public protest, actions, demonstrations are Legitimate, and that its encumbent on all levels the government to respond. Then he said ''the time of waiting is over''. Personally I think this sealed his fate. (As well as Medgar Evers, who was assassinated within a couple of hours after the speech). Kennedy was already showing signs of being different. His brother flew to Charles Evers side within hours, and Charles was with RFK when he was shot.

Leftist Politicisation is a process, born of struggle. While Kennedy was a part of the establishment, and its defender, his intellect and moral drive was veering him off the accepted. At the same time one can see him as another in a string of freeze detente freeze detente represenatatives, (which was the strategy that eventually brought the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics to its knees.).

The entire US populace was being politicised. MCCarthyism was crumbling, and the SDS was becoming a force to be reckoned with.

Fidel Castro has stated on a number of occasions that Kennedys Alliance for Progress, as initially envisaged, was the single greatest threat to the Cuban Revolution, though history has shown it to be more of the same old same old, leaving behind a massive debt burden.

How history will eventually have it I don't know, but in my opinion it must include ''once there was a promise'', shining from where one would least expect it.

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[

Fidel Castro has stated on a number of occasions that Kennedys Alliance for Progress, as initially envisaged, was the single greatest threat to the Cuban Revolution, though history has shown it to be more of the same old same old, leaving behind a massive debt burden.

-----

John I must qualify this remark with some repetition which was my major in college. Last Spring I was doing a fair amount of reading about the Alliance for Progress, in particular with reference to differences between JFK and LBJ. While the policy can only be judged a failure under both, there are nevertheless very significant differences obscured by that generalization.

1) first, especially with reference to Brazil, which was a major focus of the AFP owing to the threat of leftist volatility in the

impoverished North, JFK was willing to work with President Goulart while LBJ and his newly appointed far right head of

the AFP-- a certain Thomas Mann recently Ambassador to Mexico-- immediately sanctioned a coup that had been in the

works for some time by the CIA, largely behind the back of JFK. Kennedy's willingness to work with Goulart is described

in detail by the previous JFK's head of AFP (Martin? ) who also describes strong tension over the AFP within the US "business

community"

2) A 1970 book published by the Twentieth Century Fund also contrasts very strongly with newer books which emphasize

more continuity than change between the two presidents handling of the AFP. It goes into much greater detail of these

conflicts with the business community. In particular they related to the nature of US investment in the region, tariffs,

and the degree to which the US businessmen and their Brazilian compradores would either 1) have to obey much more

strict laws about foreign investment that were typical of Goulart and the lagacy of economic nationalism handed down from

the Vargas years, or 2) much more direct action taken by the US investors and their compradors regardless of the older

policies of the national gov. The new dicatatorships that followed the LBJ - (and Nelson Rockefeller) coup, enabled the

second option, whereas JFK actively supported the first scenario under Goulart. It is true that JFK was subject to heavy

pressure by large US investors in Brazil to change his policy, and he did make accomadations. Yet very fundemental

differences remained. It is impossible to imagine Nelson Rockefeller's mid-sixties Amazon "development" policies under

the Kennedy-Goulart scenario.

3) These differences btween the AFP under JFK on the one hand and under LBJ on the other are described most starkly of all

in the great great great great book Thy Will Be Done: Nelson Rockefeller, Evangelism, and the Conquest of the Amazon in

the Age of Oil. This book wins the first Nobel prize for electicism. It also argues that NAFTA, and the replacement of

industrial capitalism by finance capitalism, can best be understood in terms a long process that was set in unalterable

motion on November 22nd 1963.

4) even better Thy Will follows the Nelson Rockefeller vs Kennedy saga into the Bobby years where the trail leads to Peru in

1965 among other places. Here we find the famous RFK Breakfast Just South of Tiffany's quotation, but it is provided with

some very interesting context that is rarely mentioned in the "responsible" ""left"" press!

Edited by Nathaniel Heidenheimer
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Howard Zinn was active in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. His political activities resulted in him losing his job at Spelman College in 1963. The novelist, Alice Walker, was one of his students at the time: "He was thrown out because he loved us, and he showed that love by just being with us. He loved his students. He didn’t see why we should be second-class citizens. He didn’t see why we shouldn’t be able to eat where we wanted to and sleep where we wanted to and be with the people we wanted to be with. And so, he was with us. He didn’t stay back, you know, in his tower there at the school. And so, he was a subversive in that situation."

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAzinn.htm

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Most of the articles I have read so far about the death of Zinn mention his criticisms of the Kennedy Administration for not going fast enough in advancing the Civil Rights Movement. Fair enough, but what is noteworthy to me is how, once again, the US """"left""""", when they hear anything at all of Kennedy's policies, only hear him described as a conservative. This is true not only from Zinn but for many other writers that are perceived as """"left"""" in the U.S. The employable and broadcastworthy leftists of the U.S. always seem to leave out the more progressive aspects of JFK's administrtion, whether it pertains to domestic or foreign policy.

Now this might surprise some older members especially who live outside the U.S. but we are clearly no longer living in the days of Camelot, in which it is alledged, that the press was fawning at JFK's feet. IMO, no other president has received worse treatment from the US Corporate Press AND EVEN SO CALLED ALTERNATIVE PRESS than has JFK. I offer this generalization about the last 25 years or so.

I am wondering if people know of any other comments of Zinn re: the Kennedy Administration. How does it compare to his treatment of the Johnson Administration? As we know the Civil Rights Movement is complicated when trying to discern cause and effects involving both grass roots developments and the specific policies of presidents. 1960 was very different from 1964, and in addition there was the whole Boston-Austin thing going no within the democratic party. Yet so often what I read from TODAY'S SO CALLED LEFTISTS in the U.S. fails to take this into consideration.

I was also wondering what readers might consider some of the key developments of Kennedy's civil rights policies, including especially those that might be lesser known thesedays, whether they be "progressive" or conservative in nature.

This is a very important point that is rarely addressed on the forum. I became very interested in politics during the period when JFK was president. I was a socialist and saw JFK as a right-wing politician. Left-wing students in the UK at the time were especially critical of his attitude towards civil rights and his cold war warrior foreign policy. We were sympathetic to Castro (as we were to all political leaders who were attempting to gain freedom from the political empires created by the Americans, Soviets, British and the French – Battle of Algiers was my favourite film at the time).

I suspect the political viewpoint of Howard Zinn was very similar to my own. We felt especially strongly about the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 as we feared JFK’s policies would end-up with a nuclear war.

Liberals will point out the pro-civil rights speeches that JFK made to Congress on 28th February 1963 and on television on 11th June 1963. However, these were just speeches. We knew that JFK had been elected with the support of the racist Democratic Party in the Deep South. (Just before his death, Robert Kennedy admitted that it had been his job before the 1960 election to reassure leaders of the racist wing of the party, that JFK would not introduce civil rights legislation if he became president).

Therefore, when JFK was assassinated, most people on the left, failed to see that he had been killed as a part of some sort political conspiracy. Of course, at the time, we knew nothing about the secret diplomacy that JFK had been involved in as regards Cuba in 1963. Nor did we know about the deal concerning nuclear weapons being removed in Turkey and Italy.

It is true that books like "American Tragedy" by David Kaiser have shown that JFK was trying to develop a more “liberal” foreign policy after the Bay of Pigs. However, most of this was done in secret, and most people, including left-wing historians, are unaware of this.

Many people on the left like Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky still see JFK as a “conservative”. Given his actual record in government, it is difficult to argue otherwise. It is only by examining the “secret” JFK that you can start to see that if he lived, he might well have turned into the radical president that America so desperately needed in the 1960s.

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