So the FBI released their file on the late former Boston University History professor (24 years, from 1964 to 1988) and, lo and behold, Howard Zinn, the leftist author of A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present, seems clearly to have been for most of his adult life, and for all of the years he taught at my alma mater, a member of the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA). At the link RS McCain ('The Other McCain') has been digging through the document dump and finds Mr. Zinn present at CPUSA meetings in Brooklyn, possessing strong ties to communist front groups, and involvement with and leadership of numerous CPUSA-backed "protest" movements, leading up to the radical anti-war movement in the 1960's. Read Mr. McCain's entire post, which includes screenshots from the documents, transcription, and historical details that provide color and context.
Via TPM Muckraker I found this interesting set of quotes from Mr. Zinn, delivered at a protest outside a Boston police station, demanding the release of Bobby Seale of the Black Panther Party. The quote was mentioned in the context of efforts to get the FBI to assist with an effort to oust Mr. Zinn from BU, which never happened.
... ZINN, as featured speaker, spoke in front of Boston Police Headquarters on 4/14/70 in connection with a rally held for the release of BOBBY SEALE, BPP National Chairman. ZINN stated "it's about time we had a demonstration at the Police Station. Police in every nation are a blight and the United States is no exception.
ZINN further sated [sic] "America has been a police state for a long time. I believe that policemen should not have guns. I believe they should be disarmed. Policemen with guns are a danger to the community and themselves."
If this is what passes for critical thinking among the intellectual leaders on the left, I am both amused and dismayed.
And speaking of dismayed, Boston University continues to hold Howard Zinn in high regard. This obituary in BU Today, from January 2010, is effusive. In it, Mr. Zinn demonstrates more of this vaunted critical thinking.
He joined BU’s political science department in 1964, at the beginning of the anti–Vietnam War movement. “War is not complicated,” Zinn said. “War is simple. It’s like a drug. It’s like crack. You get a high from victory in war . . . My conclusions about war led me to become an activist against the war in Vietnam and to write about the nature of war.”
Right. Wars happen just so that the combatants can feel good, get high on killing and winning. It seems much more likely that his affinity for Marxism led him to become an activist against a war with a communist opponent. At the bottom of the page is a video of Mr. Zinn offering advice to President Obama, from October 2009. In it he is wrong about Iraq, wrong about Vietnam, and misleads and dissembles about "big government," among other things. He also advises negotiating with the Taliban, an organization with a stellar record on civil rights, gender equality and tolerance to be sure. Have a look.
My advice to Boston U? Start to unravel the Howard Zinn Lecture Series, or at least use it to counterbalance the radical leftist ideology that Mr. Zinn espoused and taught. Having an avowed, and active, communist as a treasured member of the faculty for 24 years is not a mark of honor.
8/1/10 0930: Reading on, I found a lengthy post from Rick Moran. I'm having a tough time reconciling the following paragraphs. Perhaps he can help me out.
For many of us who read A People’s History of the United States and were transfixed by the voices Zinn brought to life - the voices of the underclass, blacks, women, and others who had been silenced in American history textbooks - there was rush of insight not granted us previously . Social history had, until that time, been quite selective in which voices were heard. ...
On the other hand, the raw emotionalism expressed by Zinn’s subjects was a splash of cold water on many reader’s sophomoric notions of America. People beat down by capitalism, racism, and sexism have lost hope and optimism and all that’s left is a cynical loathing that makes many of our pretentious twaddle about America ring quite hollow.
and then later, this
Zinn wasn’t much of an historian. Most Marxists aren’t. Not only was Zinn rightly accused of shoddy scholarship, but his deterministic view of of history ultimately warped his writing, making it banally predictable and ridiculously shallow. Human beings are not motivated by what the economic determinists believe, nor do they act the way that most historical materialsts conclude they should. It is a tragedy that Zinn himself is taken seriously by so many.
Given the reality of Mr. Zinn's CPUSA activities and membership, and given the (I believe) correct analysis in the latter paragraph, doesn't that indict the analysis of the first snippet?