[Marxism] Howard Zinn: I don't practice safe history

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Jul 12 01:20:30 MDT 2004

Howard Zinn's third visit to the island in
2004 focused on the publication the Cuban

Here is an interview with Howard Zinn
by the moderator of the island's principal 
daily public affairs magazine program, the
Mesa Redonda (Round Table). The book, which
costs $35.00 new in a cloth-covered edition in
the United States, is on sale here in Cuba for
25 Cuban pesos. That's just under one dollar,
a fact worth keeping in mind next time you're
reading one of those articles which say Cubans
live on $20.00 per month...

CubaNews is arranging for translation of the
introduction to the new Cuban edition of THE
be sharing with you as soon as it's ready

Those leftist crabapples who read Chomsky, Zinn
Saramago and Galeano out of the left because of
their dissent from the execution of hijackers
and the trials of Washington's paid agents on
the island last year might learn something of
they saw the astute manner which the Cubans
have been approaching these individuals, and 
the positive results which have been garnered.

Read about Howard Zinn's May visit to Cuba:

Howard Zinn: I don't practice safe history 
Randy Alonso 
Cubadebate website
June 27, 2004 

"The history of any country, presented as the history of a
family, conceals fierce conflicts of interest between
conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists
and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And
in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and
executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert
Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the

US civil rights activist and historian, Howard Zinn,
recently presented his book, A People's History of the
United States, in its Spanish language version here in

With Cuban Parliament President Ricardo Alarcón and
Minister of Culture Abel Prieto present, Zinn was
introduced by Cuban poet and essayist Roberto Fernández
Retamar who described the book as an important rendition of
the history of the "elephant" to the north.

Unlike most history books, Howard Zinn's is not primarily
the story of presidents, army generals and industrialists,
but US history from the perspectives of women, men, labor,
Native Americans, African Americans, soldiers, and antiwar
movements. Although the book was first published in 1980 it
has been revised up to and including the first year of the
Bush administration. This Spanish language version is the
most up to date. Zinn commented that one of the best things
about launching his book in Cuba was the price:

Howard Zinn: It has a special meaning for me because
there's something very different about this publication.
Although my book is called A People's History of the United
States, in the United States not all people can afford to
by it. But I understand that here it will be very "barato"
(cheap) and so it will really be a book for the people.
Some of you may know that Abraham Lincoln said "democracy
is government by the people, for the people, of the
people." So I feel that here in Cuba this book is for the
people. So, it's a very democratic act to publish this book

One of the worst distortions of US history that Zinn
immediately deals with is the great mythological figure of
Christopher Columbus. Columbus Day is a national holiday
and the Spaniard is revered as the discoverer of the
Americas to the disgust and anger of Native Americans who
remember him for killing many of their ancestors and
ghkidnapping a number to return to Spain.

Other unknown facts to most US school-children is that
Japan was provoked into attacking Pearl Harbor and that
Washington knew of the plan to attack but kept it secret to
ensure the US entry into the war would happen. President
Cleveland, who is remember for making Labor Day a national
workers holiday also sent troops out to massacre striking

In other words, says the US historian, he doesn't want to
"practice safe history."

Howard Zinn: And you know I'm hopeful you see, that
something will change between the United States and Cuba
because I believe that the American people basically have
good will because there's a difference between the good
will of the American people and the bad will of the
American government. But there are those of us in the
United States who are trying to change that situation, and
so I feel confident that the time will come when there will
be a free interchange of ideas and everything, you know
when after all Cuba is so close.

But, said Zinn, both peoples have never been allowed to be
really good neighbors:

Howard Zinn: I was saying that the policy of the United
States toward Cuba has been very cruel from the beginning,
from the moment of the Revolution. Even before it was
recognized that Cuba would be a communist country; even
before that because for the American government what they
were concerned about, they just did not want any government
that would be independent of the United States. That's the
reason for all this hostility. The American government has
not been able to bare the thought that this little country,
so close, can refuse to be obedient to the United States.

The US writer and historian then turned to the new
anti-Cuba measures that prevent families on both sides of
the Florida Straits from seeing each other more than every
three years and go into effect in two days time:

Howard Zinn: To me, you know when I came to Havana six
weeks ago, I was on the plane to Miami and I began a
conversation with a woman who was sitting next to me. She
was a Miami person visiting her family in Havana. And it
was very clear to me how much it meant to her - how
important it was to her to be able to visit her family. So
I thought about her when Bush issued these regulations, and
I realized what it must mean to families to have to wait
three years and then to restrict the number of family
members you can see. From a human point of view, it's a
very cruel thing to do. And I believe that it will not help
Bush. I believe that it will turn many people in Miami,
even those not friendly to Cuba; I think it will turn many
Cubans in Miami against Bush.

But these latest regulations are the most inhuman of all
and I believe that they will blow back in the faces of the
American government, that the United States government is
not concerned with the feelings of people, whether they're
in Cuba or in Florida or anywhere. They don't care about
the feelings of people, they don't care about families,
they don't care about human relations and this will be
recognized more and more. So, I'm hopeful that people are
going to think very hard about this and this will have an
affect on change in policy.

When asked if he knew who would win the presidential
election in November, Howard Zinn said that he was happy
the audience though so much of him:

Howard Zinn: I'm very happy that you think I know the
answer. A historian can know about the past, he doesn't
know very much about the future. I think Bush will lose.
Not because his opponent is a good candidate, but because
more and more Americans are learning that Bush has been a
terrible president. And you know that when the war against
Iraq began, most Americans, maybe 70-75% said that we
support the war. But a few days ago, just as I was leaving
the United States to come here, there was a report that
more than 50% of the American people are opposed to the
war. And things will keep going in that direction because
the truth is beginning to come out. So I have this fantasy
in my mind, this vision in my mind, that on the night of
the election, I'll be sitting around the television set,
with my friends and family and we will have a big
celebration, and at that same moment people will be
celebrating all over the world.

Howard Zinn then turned on the US mainstream media who many
feel are greatly responsible for war by their unquestioning
support of the Bush attack against Iraq and the assumption
there were weapons of mass destruction to be found.

Howard Zinn: So there is the press and television which
have been supporting the war from the beginning and even
today, while public opinion has been changing, every major
newspaper in the United States still supports the war to
some extent. No major newspaper says: We must leave, the
United States must stop. So if you just look at the press
and televisio, you will become very depressed. But I think
in every country, under the surface of politics, there are
ideas that circulate and they grow stronger and a certain
point is reached in history when there is cultural change.
People like Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, writers, artists,
some of the most famous musicians in the United States have
spoken out against the war, some of the most famous poets
have spoken out against the war. And I think the essential
things that I said about the Bush administration are still
true four years later. We writers like to think that when
we write something it remains true forever.

Finally the US historian and civil rights activist was
asked to what degree people in the United States were aware
of the case of the five Cubans imprisoned in their country:

Howard Zinn: You know, the five Cubans who have been
imprisoned in the United States is something that is a
secret from the people of the United States. That story
does not appear in the American press. You hear nothing
about it. It's like some of those other people that the
United States has picked up and put away and not allowed to
see their families or to talk to lawyers. It's totally in
violation not just of constitutional rights, but just of
human rights. So we have a very important job to do in the
United States for people in the progressive movement. And
that is to make the situation known to people because I
believe the American people have a basic sense of decency.
When they learn that something inhuman has happened, they
react against it. The problem is that they don't learn
about these things because the government and the press
keep these things hidden from them. When they learn what is
happening, then they begin to understand. And we've seen
this happen historically in the United States because we
saw during the Vietnam war how the American people at first
were very ignorant about what was happening in Vietnam and
so they supported the government. But, when they learned
the truth about what was going on, they turned against the
government. And so my hope is that more and more people in
the United States will begin to learn about the situation
of the Cuban Five and I think they will find that
intolerable. So that is the hope for anybody who believes
in human rights.

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