Saturday, July 31, 2010

So Howard Zinn Supported Stalin

It is confirmed (for any who had doubts), Howard Zinn was a communist. Really it should come as no big surprise given his "intellectual" output. Zinn was a man consumed by ideology (and a particularly violent and hate filled variant to boot.) It oozed like toxic slime over practically everything the man ever wrote, which amounted to making a mockery of the enlightenment idea of history. Zinn is to real history what Lysenko is to real biology, that is, a joke.


Anonymous said...

Do you realize you linked to Cliff Kincaid, a right-wing conspiracy nut, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center's most recent Intelligence Report (Summer 2010) in the article "Meet the Patriots" as a man who fears "the Vatican's role in the 'New World Order' [and] the prospect of the U.S. military becoming a sinister homosexual fighting force"? Kincaid subscribes to Scott Lively's Pink Swastika theory that gays were the main orchestrators of the Holocaust and believes that the United Nations is part of vast conspiracy to destroy the civil liberties of the American people. In short he is a a right-wing crank. You will have to do better that.

To prove your assertion about Zinn being a Stalinist you need to cite better material, especially in regard to the quality of his scholarship. I am unaware of him whitewashing the horror of the Stalin regime. If you have evidence of this please cite it. He may have been a member of the CPUSA during the 1940s -- although taking the word of an FBI informant is not enough by itself -- but that is not the same thing as endorsing or explaining away Stalin's genocidal policies. At any rate, Zinn denied he was a member of CPUSA and until better evidence comes along, I'll believe him.

I rather enjoyed his A People's History, though I only occasionally dip in to it. I have not read it cover to cover just as I have not read any textbook cover to cover -- that is for undergrads to do. I don't think he was an outstanding scholar, but his textbook and his speeches have been quite influential. Comparing him to Lysenko is hyperbolic. I recommend that you read Zinn before you denounce him. You might learn something.

Moreover, Zinn played a heroic role in the Civil Rights Movement, including teaching at Spelman College in Atlanta during the height of Massive Resistance and advising SNNC. He also was a distinguished veteran of WWII who turned pacifist and anti-war demonstrator during the Vietnam era.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Oh give me a break with the ad hominems. The files themselves are there for anyone to read so unless you are stating that there is some conspiracy afoot to fake FOI releases, you haven't a leg to stand on.

In fact your entire comment is an excercise in fallacious argumentation (mostly the ecological fallacy.)

The facts are irrefutable:

1) The CPUSA supported Stalin throughoutthe 40's and early 50's (right up until Stalin's death).

2) Zinn was a member of the CPUSA in the late 40's and early 50's.

3) Ergo, Zinn was a member of a group that openly supported Stalin.

So, it doesn't matter if Zinn supported Civil Rights later on. As they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day.

You are as bad as those people that defend Stalin by saying "He fought Hitler" who somehow forget Stalin's first impulse was to ally with Hitler - and who only fought Hitler because Germany attacked Russia.

And I'm sorry but "ideological history" is not history at all. By definition ideology is a closing off of oneself from reality. That was what Zinn embraced...the path that has led to the terror, the gulag, and the concentration camp.

All I can say is if Camus was right, than Zinn was wrong.

Camus was right.

Anonymous said...

The "fact"is that an FBI informant claimed that Zinn was a member of the CPUSA. That is not the same thing as Zinn's acknowledgement of membership, a signed membership card, his attendance of meetings of CPUSA, etc. Informants are not always accurate. At any rate, I see no evidence of "Stalinism" in Zinn's published work, please cite some examples or give up this rather tired trope.

What history is not "ideological history"? Who writes non-ideological history? Leopold van Ranke, Jules Michelet, Francis Parkman, Charles Beard, Charles Tilly, etc. all had ideologies. You clearly have an ideology (as does everyone). Is your blog continuing the path from the Terror, concentration camp, and gulag to some other terrible thing?

For a political philosopher you seem to have a rather cramped and naive notion of history. Did you skip social theory in grad. school?

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Believe it or not there has been plenty of good work done since the "60's" (or by people who are not stuck mentally back there. The fact is ideologies are not inevitable, they are chosen. Either one chooses to adhere to an ideology in opposition to reality or they do not. The fact that you listed a number of writers that embraced ideology is meaningless. The last 250 years has been an ideological age. But, thankfully, that age is drawing to an end.

Granted, from a philosophical perspective, the end of ideology has been forecasted for quite sometime. Charles Sanders Peirce touched upon it in his classic essay "The Fixation of Belief," Henri Bergson outlined the choices involved as the difference between the Open and Closed societies in his "Two Sources of Morality and Religion," Eric Voegelin's entire output was dedicated to exposing the dead end ideological systems were leading humanity, and, in the current day, the work of David Walsh (particularly his "After Ideology") points towards a political and social reality far richer than the arbitrary choosing of an ideolgy the modern world had culminated in. Think of the pointlessness of Sartre choosing communism not because he thought it was true (in any sense) but because it didn't matter (so he thought) what one chose as long as one surrendered one's self to the idea completely. That isn't noble. It's madness.

In fact, my view isn't "cramped" at all. Yours is because it is locked into seeing everything in terms of ideology. It simply is a philosophically and morally untenable position.

And I dont really feel the need to play nice with it.

emily shorette said...

Zinn was a commie? Wow. Next earthshaking report will tell us the sky is blue...


Anonymous said...

Your position that you don't have an ideology is ideological. Sorry. That's the way it is. For that matter your endorsement of the most conservative teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, fresh water economics, your belief that Catholics are persecuted in the U.S. and Muslims pandered to, your disbelief in Global Warming, and so on are ideological as well. This is not a post-ideological age and you are not a post-ideological writer.

By the way why do you put the 60s in scare quotes?

Lastly, please provide ONE EXAMPLE of Zinn's work being compromised by his ideology. You claim that "it oozed like toxic slime over practically every thing the man wrote" so it should be rather easy for you.... Unless you have never read any thing Zinn has written and you are spouting ideological rubbish.

Anonymous said...

By the way, I just did not list "writers" who have ideologies, I listed among the most distinguished of modern historians, beginning with Ranke commonly regarded as the "Father of Modern History." The fact that you just regarded these leading scholars as "writers" is a telltale sign that know very little indeed about history and historiography.

And just because Stalin was once allied with Hitler does not obviate the fact that Soviet Union did the bulk of the fighting and dying to defeat the Nazis. To extend your logic to the Iraq War, the fact that the U.S. supported Saddam Huessein for decades, and winked at his genocidal policies against the Kurds and Shiites in Iraq and Iran, would then deny the U.S. any credit for overthrowing him.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Zinn's People's History:
Chapter Sixteen: "A People's War?"

"The victors [of World War II] were the Soviet Union and the United States (also England, France and Nationalist China, but they were weak). Both these countries now went to work--without swastikas, goose-stepping, or officially declared racism, but under the cover of "socialism" on one side, and "democracy" on the other, to carve out their own empires of influence. They proceeded to share and contest with one another the domination of the world, to build military machines far greater than the Fascist countries had built, to control the destinies of more countries than Hitler, Mussolini, and Japan had been able to do. They also acted to control their own populations, each country with its own techniques-crude in the Soviet Union, sophisticated in the United States--to make their rule secure."

So...the US is a fascist regime "without the swastikas."

I'm sorry...but only a dim witted moron would find such drivel intellectually satisfying, or find that it had anything to do with reality. This is such a stupid (mind-bogglingly stupid) way to view the cold war it is very nearly a crime against humanity to subject students to it, especially when one could read an actual historian of the cold war, like Gaddis and his "The Cold War: A New History."

This doesn;t even take into account the things in which Zinn was simply factually wrong on, like Julius Rosenberg being a spy. Zinn insisted he wasn't even after Soviet achives rleased in the 90's (as well as Nikita Khrushchev's memoirs) clearly identified Rosenberg as working for the Soviets. Zinn's blind pig ignornace rules supreme. As he himself said, "To me it didn’t matter whether they were guilty or not." You see, for Zinn reality didn't matter. Only his ideological vision mattered.

And I'm sorry, if you don't understand that one can have a political stance without an ideology then I might not be able to help you. Go read any basic textbook on idelogies (Ball & Dagger, Sargent, Macridis) and they will all identify the same things. Ideologies arise at a specific point in time (the 18th century - though there are precursors). Now does that mean there were no politics before then? Of course not. They simply were varieties of politics without ideology. This is every bit as much a fact as 2+2=4.

Anonymous said...

I think Zinn's take on the U.S and USSR after World War II is spot-on. The U.S. did indeed consolidate an empire, not as brutally as the USSR to be sure, but brutally nonetheless. Well over 2 million Indochinese were killed during our imperial adventure in VIetnam, Laos, and Cambodia. We propped up blood-thirsty dictators in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, on numerous occasions encouraging them to kill civilians, e.g., Henry Kissenger and Suharto in East Timor or Pinochet in Chile or Don Rumsfeld to Saddam, etc., etc. It is true the Soviets were more brutal than the Americas, but then again than again saying that is not giving the U.S much credit. "Good job, you were less brutal than a series of brutal military dictators." The truth hurts.

I have not seen Zinn's take on the Rosenbergs. If he denies they were Soviet agents, then, of course, he was wrong. I will check my copy A Peoples' History.

Oh yeah, you are one of the most ideological persons I have seen on the internet. Congratulations.

The Iconic Midwesterner said...

Well, since you dont seem to know what political ideologies are, I'm not too concerned about that. Maybe you, since you are such an expert on my political thought, can show me how I fulfill the four part definition of ideologies laid out by Ball and Dagger in their textbook on the subject?

1) Explanation: Why is the world the way it is, put in simple terms (eg Marx's relationship to the means of production)

2) Evaluation: What is good v. what is bad. (eg Marx's proletariat vs. the capitalist or bourgeoisie)

3) Orientation: Defining the world as Us vs. Them (see above)

4) Program: As Lenin said "What is to be done."

Good luck with that effort.

I'll let you know that it is impossible because, philosophically speaking, I believe the world is radically contingent. The implication of that is a reject that the "truth" can be uncovered entirely using reason (ala liberalism or positivism), or that it can be imposed via the human will (ala communism/socialism or fascism). Ideologies are nothing to me except example of humongous circle jerks.