Robert Birnbaum On New Howard Zinn Book

January 8, 2007

A Power Governments Cannot Suppress
Howard Zinn (City Lights Books, 308 pages)


Two recent books by activist historian Howard Zinn seem to have gone largely ignored by the so-called mainstream media. This slim volume by the author of the increasingly relevant and important A People’s History of the United States is another collection of recent speeches and articles that, as Howard states:

…assembles my most recent writings on a variety of subjects, from the war in Iraq to essays on Eugene Debs, Henry David Thoreau, and Sacco and Vanzetti. The central theme is probably best expressed in the final essay, “The Optimism of Uncertainty,” in which I draw upon historical experience to suggest that the apparent power of governments and corporations is in fact fragile, that it rests on the obedience of the citizenry, and when that obedience is withdrawn, extraordinary change can take place.

Of course, the passage that follows, from the section “Governments Lie,” may suggest the reluctance of the government’s handmaidens in the press to recognize Howard Zinn:

Our leaders on the other hand continue to plant the belief that we are entitled, because of our moral superiority, to dominate the world … What is the is the idea of our moral superiority based on? Surely not on our behavior toward people in other parts of the world. Is it based on how well people in the United States live? One of five children in this the richest country in the world is born in poverty. There are more than forty countries that have better records better records on infant mortality. Cuba does better. And it is a sure sign of sickness in a society when we lead the world in the number of people in prison—more than two million… A more honest estimate of ourselves as a nation would prepare us all for the next barrage of lies that will accompany the next proposal to inflict our power on some other part of the world…

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