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  April 7, 2009

Zinn on the movement and new parties


Howard Zinn Pt.5 : In the next ten years conditions for new parties may develop
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biography

Howard Zinn was an American historian, political scientist, social critic, activist and playwright. He is best known as author of the best-seller 'A People's History of the United States'. Zinn has been active in the Civil Rights and the anti-war movements in the United States. Howard Zinn passed away on January 27, 2010. Zinn was raised in a working-class family in Brooklyn, and flew bombing missions for the United States in World War II, an experience he now points to in shaping his opposition to war. In 1956, he became a professor at Spelman College in Atlanta, a school for black women, where he soon became involved in the Civil rights movement, which he participated in as an adviser to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee SNCC and chronicled, in his book SNCC The New Abolitionists. Zinn collaborated with historian Staughton Lynd and mentored a young student named Alice Walker. When he was fired in 1963 for insubordination related to his protest work, he moved to Boston University, where he became a leading critic of the Vietnam War.


transcript

Zinn on the movement and new partiesPAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to the next segment of our interview with Howard Zinn, coming to you from Boston. Thanks for joining us. So eight years from now, we'll have been through some kind of Afghan scenario. Let's paint the most positive picture: Obama's diplomacy turns out to be a success; there's a deal with Iran; they solve the Afghan-Pakistan situation; there's a deal with Russia; some kind of a economic revival, which means the Chinese economy gets going again; and tensions reduce around the world; and eight years from now we're in a good situation. So let's all hope for that. Another possible scenario: the stimulus package doesn't work—I've said this in some of the earlier segments of our interview, but a medium to worst case scenario is that ten years from now the economy still has very high unemployment, and the Obama administration is considered to either have not been a success in terms of saving the economy or not been a success in really fulfilling its promise to the middle class, because it could be the best-case scenario one could get out of the situation—if it's even possible—is to kind of go back to the way it was, kind of back to American capitalism as we've always known it, which wasn't all that good for most Americans, especially in the last ten, fifteen years. So the question is: do you think there's any possibility, because of the crisis, for a different kind of politics, meaning other parties, some kind of breakdown of the two-party system?

HOWARD ZINN, HISTORIAN AND AUTHOR: If the situation continues to be as bad as it is or gets worse—and, in fact, I don't think it can remain just as it is. I think it probably will get worse if these very weak policies of the Obama administration do not change into something bold. If the situation does get worse, then what alternatives, politically, will people have? They could vote for a Republican. They could create a new progressive wing of the Democratic Party which transforms the Democratic Party and creates a possibility of new, bold policies. Or if the Democratic Party looks so hopeless, refuses to change, continues in its present path, it's quite possible that a third party could emerge, a party which will say to the American people, "We know the Republican Party. We had them. We had them under Bush. They got us into enormous trouble. We've now had eight years of the Democratic Party there, incapable of taking us out of this economic crisis, and they still have our sons and daughters overseas dying in wars. We need a new party." And I can see the possibility of a third party emerging and speaking to the American people and saying, here's what we're going to do. We're going to get our young people out of wars. We're going to stop war. We are going to cut down the military budget to the point where it's simply a defensive operation. We have not defended ourselves. Despite the fact we have a Department of Defense, every war that we have fought since World War II has been an offensive war, an aggressive war. We are going to create free health care for everybody. We'll even guarantee jobs to people who lose their jobs. We are going to guarantee adequate social security for older people. We are going to guarantee that people who want to go to college and can't afford it will be able to go to college. These are the things we promise to do, and we have the money to do it, and we can show you where we have the money to do it: through a new taxation policy and through the cutting down of the military. I think a bold program like that, advertised widely—and, of course, this is always a problem with any new party that's trying to crash the barriers—advertise on the Internet, advertise in every possible way, would speak to what the American people want, is that the program that I just outlined, I believe, is what the American people want. I believe the American people are sick of war. I believe the American people—and they've shown us in poll after poll—want a government-run health system. I don't think the American people are as afraid of big government as the leaders of the Democratic and Republican Party are. So I think a new party that speaks very boldly and clearly in simple language to the public and presents to them a program which they've been waiting for and which neither party has given them, such a party could succeed.

JAY: What does it take to get there?

ZINN: Huge amount of organization, huge amount of education, and a deteriorating situation.

JAY: There's an interesting convergence on some issues with this section of the population that's been in the Republican Party or on the edges of the Republican Party, and best represented by Ron Paul, who on a lot of foreign-policy issues are very much in agreement with the progressive left. In fact, if anything, Ron Paul even goes a little further. I mean, he's called for closing all foreign military bases. And you don't hear that even from some of the better-known progressive politicians that—they may have it as a position, but they don't talk about it very often. Paul's talked about cutting down the military budget and a whole range of international issues. There's a lot in common. Now, when you get to domestic economic issues, there's a tremendous divergence on most economic issues. But is there grounds there for some kind of a broad front amongst these forces?

ZINN: I think there is ground for appealing to Republicans who are not die-hard Republicans, who are Republicans because they don't see any really exciting alternative. And I think there's a very large number of Republicans who are with Ron Paul's idea of no more war, no more militarism, no more foreign bases. And I believe that these people who are not, as I say, the hardcore of the Republican Party but who are a certain percentage of the Republican Party, I think these people can be appealed to by a new party. You know, many polls over the years have shown that when you ask Americans to classify themselves as Democrats or Republicans or independent, huge number of them classify themselves as independent—they only vote Democrat or Republican because they have to, because they don't see an alternative. And so the problem is to present to them a viable, attractive alternative.

JAY: Well, we will see how this eight years unfolds.

ZINN: Yes.

JAY: Thanks for joining us, Howard.

ZINN: Thank you.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

DISCLAIMER:

Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.



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