J’ai été consterné en apprenant que le prix Nobel de la paix avait été attribué à Barack Obama. L’idée qu’un président qui mène des guerres dans deux pays et des actions militaires dans un troisième (le Pakistan) puisse recevoir un prix de la paix m’a paru vraiment choquante. (…) On ne devrait pas décerner un prix de la paix en se fondant sur les promesses faites par tel ou tel (comme dans le cas d’Obama, qui sait user d’une grande éloquence pour faire des promesses), mais sur ses actions concrètes pour mettre fin à la guerre. Or Obama poursuit une action militaire sanglante et inhumaine en Irak, en Afghanistan et au Pakistan. Howard Zinn
Je pense que les gens sont éblouis par la rhétorique d’Obama et que les gens devraient commencer à comprendre qu’Obama va être un président médiocre – ce qui à notre époque signifie un président dangereux – à moins qu’il y ait un mouvement national pour le pousser dans une meilleure direction. Howard Zinn
Je ne vois personne qui ait eu autant d’impact et d’influence. Son oeuvre historique a changé la manière avec laquelle des millions de gens regardaient l’histoire des Etats-Unis. Noam Chomsky
Ce que Zinn a fait, c’est de sortir l’écriture de l’histoire du monde universitaire et il a effectivement démoli nombre des positions franchement partiales et racistes de l’époque. Mais c’est un vulgarisateur et sa vision de l’histoire est un monde à l’envers d’anciens coupables devenus héros et au bout d’un moment ça devient complètement irréel. Sean Wilentz (historien de Princeton)
Et, singulier hasard de calendrier, de la disparition de l’historien américain Howard Zinn …
Retour sur le dernier écrit public (dans le Monde diplomatique américain, ie. The Nation) du plus populaire des historiens américains de gauche via notamment sa célébrissime « Histoire populaire des Etats-Unis » (1980) …
Qui se trouve justement être un jugement, par le grand historien des paysans, féministes, ouvriers et objecteurs de conscience, sur l’un des plus impopulaires débuts de mandat de présidents américains de l’histoire récente.
Et qui, venant d’un des maitres à penser du défaitisme révolutionnaire ayant probablement le plus contribué à la vision du monde et de l’histoire de la génération de l’Autoflagellant en chef, pourrait pourtant étrangement être repris (certes pas, évidemment, pour les mêmes raisons) par nombre de ses critiques de droite ou du simple centre …
Obama at one
January 13, 2010
I’ ve been searching hard for a highlight. The only thing that comes close is some of Obama’s rhetoric; I don’t see any kind of a highlight in his actions and policies.
As far as disappointments, I wasn’t terribly disappointed because I didn’t expect that much. I expected him to be a traditional Democratic president. On foreign policy, that’s hardly any different from a Republican–as nationalist, expansionist, imperial and warlike. So in that sense, there’s no expectation and no disappointment. On domestic policy, traditionally Democratic presidents are more reformist, closer to the labor movement, more willing to pass legislation on behalf of ordinary people–and that’s been true of Obama. But Democratic reforms have also been limited, cautious. Obama’s no exception. On healthcare, for example, he starts out with a compromise, and when you start out with a compromise, you end with a compromise of a compromise, which is where we are now.
I thought that in the area of constitutional rights he would be better than he has been. That’s the greatest disappointment, because Obama went to Harvard Law School and is presumably dedicated to constitutional rights. But he becomes president, and he’s not making any significant step away from Bush policies. Sure, he keeps talking about closing Guantánamo, but he still treats the prisoners there as « suspected terrorists. » They have not been tried and have not been found guilty. So when Obama proposes taking people out of Guantánamo and putting them into other prisons, he’s not advancing the cause of constitutional rights very far. And then he’s gone into court arguing for preventive detention, and he’s continued the policy of sending suspects to countries where they very well may be tortured.
I think people are dazzled by Obama’s rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president–which means, in our time, a dangerous president–unless there is some national movement to push him in a better direction.
Howard Zinn, Historian, Dies at 87
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
The New York Times
January 28, 2010
Howard Zinn, historian and shipyard worker, civil rights activist and World War II bombardier, and author of “A People’s History of the United States,” a best seller that inspired a generation of high school and college students to rethink American history, died Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 87 and lived in Auburndale, Mass.
The cause was a heart attack, which he had while swimming, his family said.
Proudly, unabashedly radical, with a mop of white hair and bushy eyebrows and an impish smile, Mr. Zinn, who retired from the history faculty at Boston University two decades ago, delighted in debating ideological foes, not the least his own college president, and in lancing what he considered platitudes, not the least that American history was a heroic march toward democracy.
Almost an oddity at first, with a printing of just 4,000 in 1980, “A People’s History of the United States” has sold nearly two million copies. To describe it as a revisionist account is to risk understatement. A conventional historical account held no allure; he concentrated on what he saw as the genocidal depredations of Christopher Columbus, the blood lust of Theodore Roosevelt and the racial failings of Abraham Lincoln. He also shined an insistent light on the revolutionary struggles of impoverished farmers, feminists, laborers and resisters of slavery and war.
Such stories are more often recounted in textbooks today; they were not at the time.
“Our nation had gone through an awful lot — the Vietnam War, civil rights, Watergate — yet the textbooks offered the same fundamental nationalist glorification of country,” Mr. Zinn recalled in a recent interview with The New York Times. “I got the sense that people were hungry for a different, more honest take.”
In a book review in The Times, the historian Eric Foner wrote of the book that “historians may well view it as a step toward a coherent new version of American history.” But many historians, even those of liberal bent, took a more skeptical view.
“What Zinn did was bring history writing out of the academy, and he undid much of the frankly biased and prejudiced views that came before it,” said Sean Wilentz, a professor of history at Princeton University. “But he’s a popularizer, and his view of history is topsy-turvy, turning old villains into heroes, and after a while the glow gets unreal.”
That criticism barely raised a hair on Mr. Zinn’s neck. “It’s not an unbiased account; so what?” he said in the Times interview. “If you look at history from the perspective of the slaughtered and mutilated, it’s a different story.”
Few historians succeeded in passing so completely through the academic membrane into popular culture. He gained admiring mention in the movie “Good Will Hunting”; Matt Damon appeared in a History Channel documentary about him; and Bruce Springsteen said the starkest of his many albums, “Nebraska,” drew inspiration in part from Mr. Zinn’s writings.
Born Aug. 24, 1922, Howard Zinn grew up in New York City. His parents were Jewish immigrants, and his father ran candy stores during the Depression without much success.
“We moved a lot, one step ahead of the landlord,” Mr. Zinn recalled. “I lived in all of Brooklyn’s best slums.”
He graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School and became a pipe fitter in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where he met his future wife, Roslyn Shechter. Raised on Charles Dickens, he later added Karl Marx to his reading, organized labor rallies and got decked by a billy-club-wielding cop.
He joined the Army Air Corps in 1943, eager to fight the fascists, and became a bombardier in a B-17. He watched his bombs rain down and, when he returned to New York, deposited his medals in an envelope and wrote, “Never Again.”
“I would not deny that war had a certain moral core, but that made it easier for Americans to treat all subsequent wars with a kind of glow,” Mr. Zinn said. “Every enemy becomes Hitler.”
He and his wife lived in a rat-infested basement apartment as he dug ditches and worked in a brewery. Later they moved to public housing and he went to college on the G.I. Bill.
He earned a B.A. at New York University and master’s and doctoral degrees at Columbia University. In 1956, he landed a job at Spelman College, a historically black women’s college, as chairman of the history department. Among his students were Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund; Alice Walker, the novelist; and the singer and composer Bernice Johnson Reagon.
Mr. Zinn served on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and marched for civil rights with his students, which angered Spelman’s president.
“I was fired for insubordination,” Mr. Zinn recalled. “Which happened to be true.”
Mr. Zinn moved to Boston University in 1964. He traveled with the Rev. Daniel Berrigan to Hanoi to receive prisoners released by the North Vietnamese, and produced the antiwar books “Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal” (1967) and “Disobedience and Democracy” (1968).
He waged a war of attrition with Boston University’s president at the time, John Silber, a political conservative. Mr. Zinn twice organized faculty votes to oust Mr. Silber, and Mr. Silber returned the favor, saying the professor was a sterling example of those who would “poison the well of academe.”
Mr. Zinn’s book “La Guardia in Congress” (1959) won the American Historical Association’s Albert J. Beveridge Award. “A publisher went so far as to publish my quotations, which my wife thought was ridiculous,” Mr. Zinn said. “She said, ‘What are you, the pope or Mao Zedong?’ ”
Mr. Zinn retired in 1988, concluding his last class early so he could join a picket line. He invited his students to join him.
Mr. Zinn wrote three plays: “Daughter of Venus,” “Marx in Soho” and “Emma,” about the life of the anarchist Emma Goldman. All have been produced. His last article was a rather bleak assessment of President Obama for The Nation. “I’ve been searching hard for a highlight,” he wrote.
Rosyln Zinn died in 2008. Mr. Zinn is survived by a daughter, Myla Kabat-Zinn of Lexington, Mass.; a son, Jeff Zinn, of Wellfleet, Mass.; and five grandchildren.
Mr. Zinn spoke recently of more work to come. The title of his memoir, he noted, best described his personal philosophy: “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train.”
A staff obituary by The New York Times will appear later.