Thursday, January 28, 2010

Howard Zinn - RIP

It has been announced that Howard Zinn , the radical American historian and activist , has died .

SOYMB can't pretend to agree with Zinn all the time. Zinn was often prone to supporting reformism on grounds of "pragmatism", provision of public health-care in the US being a case in point. However, given where he comes from and the generation he belongs to, it is at least understandable. "Human beings make history, but not always in circumstances of their own choosing," as Marx was fond of saying. Given all the history out there being written by bourgeois apologists, plodding careerist empiricists, dull local-fixated antiquarians and childish, pretentious postmodernists, we need more radical historians like Howard Zinn whose books such as "A People's History of the United States" are proscribed in US schools. He exposes the lies and spin and self-interest from the time of the first president right through to the current incumbent. He shows how fear, suspicion and discrimination were deliberately harnessed as tools by those with power to set sections of the population against each other in order to pre-empt them joining forces against the real tyrants. The steady march of capitalism and the two-party system, whilst promoting democracy and wealth for all, have their eyes set only on the twin goals of control at home and control of the world, i.e. democracy for none and wealth for a few.

For anyone coming into contact with Marx's ideas for the first time, dreading the volumes of political economy and having only ever heard second-hand, distorted accounts of Marx's theories Zinn's play "Marx in Soho" is a welcome first point of reference in which Zinn makes Marx's ideas accessible and the man himself, less the spectre that haunted Europe, than some 19th century alternative comedian who just happens to know what capitalism is really all about.

1 comment:

Imposs1904 said...

I'd also recommend his essay 'Je Ne Suis Pas Marxiste'.