[Marxism] Howard Zinn in Cuba

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Tue May 11 11:04:08 MDT 2004

Here are two interviews with Howard Zinn who visited
Cuba last week to meet with performers who will be
bring his MARX IN SOHO to the island in the fall.

Those who attacked Zinn, Chomsky and the others for
their having signed the Joanne Landy petitions last
year, virtually writing them out of the left for 
what they unfortunately signed, error, could learn a
lot from the far more astute way the Cubans responded.

They began publishing Zinn, Chomsky and others' essays
against the US war on Iraq. Mexican activists who are
supportive of Cuba asked them to sign the CALL TO THE
CONSCIENCE OF THE WORLD in defense of Cuba. 

The Cubans also invited those writers to Cuba, and 
both Noam Chomsky and Zinn responded well to what
they saw and who they met on the island. In my essay
phenomenon in some detail, and provided examples.

Thanks very much to Ana Portela for this translation. 
Readers with Internet access will prefer to read this
on the website where it's now posted together with all
the photographs from the Cuban media of Zinn meeting
with Cuban colleagues.


Walter Lippmann, Moderator, CubaNews list.

Revista Digital de Cultura Cubana

“MARX IS NOT DEAD” And I am going to try to prove it by
bringing him back on the scene. And from there I'll show
difference the U.S. public what Marxism is really about.
Marx himself would explain the difference between Stalinism
and Marxism. I'll remind people what Marx's criticism of
capitalism was. I would demonstrate that these ideas have
much to with the United States today. In other words, that
Marxist criticism today is exact and current. Exclusive
interview with the U.S. writer Howard Zinn.

M.H. Lagarde | La Habana Photos: Alain Gutierrez

Reading the newspaper version of La Jiribilla

"Thank God, an audience! I am happy you could come. You
haven't listened to those idiots who said Marx is dead!
Well I am...and I'm not!" - Karl Marx says in the very
heart of Havana.

The audience to which this eternal party-pooper risen from
the dead refers is about a dozen people seated in the small
Adolfo Llauradó Theater in the central part of the City,
Vedado. While the actor embodying Marx moves and talks on
stage, the audience divides its attention from the
performance and the silhouette set off by a faint light of
this tall and gray-haired man who, from his chair, keeps
jotting down notes in a notebook. It is Howard Zinn, the
U.S. writer and historian, who has come to see the
production of his monologue Marx in Soho by the Cuban actor
and theater director Michael Cué

The US writer, Howard Zinn (center) with the group who will
represent his work on stage in Havana

Invited by the National Council of Theater Arts and the
Cuban Book Institute, Zinn takes advantage of his second
trip to the island to brush up on Cuban reality. His first
visit was during the 1970s with a group of Canadian

Among other places of interest, the 81-year-old writer
visited the Fine Arts Palace, the San Alejandro School of
Painting and the National School of Ballet. This interview
was made in this latter institution, after visiting its
modern halls and installations in what were described by
the author of the People's History of the United States as
"a dance palace filled with princesses and princes. Here,
the author of the Zinn Reader and You Can't Be Neutral on a
Moving Train, talks of his theatrical work that the Cubans
will now have the opportunity to enjoy this coming June, as
well as some subjects about the current situation in the
United States.

One of your students, the well-known novelist Alice Walker,
has defined the writer as a sort of medium 
 How was Howard
Zinn inspired to revive Karl Marx?

When I was 17, I began to read Marx and Engels. At 18 I
began to work in a shipyard. Together with three other
radical young people, I organized the Young Shipyard
Workers Union. At that time, unions were very exclusive and
young persons could not join them. The four of us became a
team and met once a week. We read Marx and many years
later, when I became a professor, I gave a seminar on
Marxism. I read a lot of literature on Marx and became
interested in his family life. For me to learn about him as
a human being is as important as learning of his ideas.

My first theater work was not about Karl Marx but about an
anarchist and feminist, Emma Goldman. That play was shown
in several cities of the US: New York and Boston, but also
in London and Japan. Later, already interested in the
theater, I decided to write a play about Marx. I made this
decision after the fall of the Soviet Union because, after
its fall, everyone thought that Marxism had died. So I
tried to tell the US public: Marx is not dead and I am
going to prove it by bringing him back to the scenario.
>From there I would teach this same public the difference
between Stalinism and Marxism. I would remind them what
Marxist criticism of capitalism consists of. I would
demonstrate that these ideas have much to do about the US
today. In other words, that Marxist criticism of capitalism
is still exact and current today.

Since I didn't want to only represent ideas, I added
information about the relationship between Marx and his
family, a little bit of humor, and a vision of what a new
society could be. That is why I have Marx speaking in the
Paris Commune of 1871. The Commune is a small light.

What has been the reception of Marx in Soho in the United
States? Didn't they confuse you with Groucho Marx?

The US people know more about Groucho Marx than about Karl
Marx. The play has been shown in forty venues in the US,
mostly for a university public. The number of spectators
has fluctuated from three hundred to a thousand and the
play has always been well-received, perhaps because it
presents Marxist ideas clearly and simply. It is a question
of common sense. The play is a combination of humor and
experiences, human and family, and one can even laugh at
Marx. It is what happens when Jenny laughs at him and
Eleanor does the same. I think this is more attractive for
the public. Marx doesn't come on stage as someone who knows
it all.

Is there a presence in US academies, the universities, is
his work studied?

Sometimes. Perhaps in one out of every hundred universities
there is a course on Marxism. There are many courses of
political philosophy and perhaps a few days are set aside
for Marx. Usually his ideas are not taught with exactness.

Perhaps in one out of every hundred universities t here is
a course on Marxism. There are many courses of political
philosophy and perhaps a few days are se t aside for Marx.
Usually his ideas are not taught with exactness.

Zinn shared opinions with a group of Cuban historians and
writers in the Hotel Ambos Mundos.

Can t his lessening of Marx be intentional?

It is ignorance.

In your work you touch on many ideas that are current. One
is the allusion you make of the Marx character about the
cowardice of the press. What is your opinion on the
cowardly role of the press today in the US in relation to
the war in Iraq?

There are two parts of the press in the US. One is
television and the powerful newspapers that generally
support the position of the government, especially its
positions on foreign policy. For example, none of the
important newspapers say that the US should withdraw from
Iraq. They say things should be done differently; they
propose getting the UN involved, a UN that they ignored
from the very beginning. They say that they need more
soldiers and don't have more soldiers. "We should have a
better plan to occupy Iraq", but there is no form of basic
criticism. This is what happens in the powerful press.
There is also the opposition press that has a much smaller
circulation. For example, The New York Times reaches more
than a million persons while The Nation reaches a hundred
thousand persons. The great television chains reach 30
million persons while the smaller cable television only
reaches several thousand persons. The same happens with
progressive radio stations may reach, perhaps, 50 thousand

After a book such as that by Richard Clarke or by Bob
Woodward, revealing t he lies and evil machinations of the
present administration, how is it possible that a scandal
in the style of Watergate has not occurred?

The ignorance of the US public is very hard to explain.
They know there were lies but, perhaps, they are used to
these lies. They see on television and in the newspapers
that there are things that are not the truth, but don't
follow it up with the conclusion that the invasion of Iraq
was wrong. Bush can say: "Well, we didn't find weapons of
mass destruction but we had to get rid of Saddam Hussein."
They are always changing the reason for the invasion, and
if one of them is false, they invent another. In a national
survey about which television channels were most watched by
the population, it was revealed that the majority watch
news on the Fox chain. Of these, 80% say that weapons of
mass destruction were found in Iraq. In other words, the
great mass media confuse their viewers. You will never find
real and direct criticism of the war in Iraq on these
stations. It is interesting to note that, in the United
States, with these television and large-circulation
newspapers, the people are the least-informed in the world.

In your play, Marx quotes the well-known words of Lincoln
that says that you fool some of the people but not all of
the time. How long will we have to wait for the people of
the US to stop being manipulated?

This process has already begun. The number of persons
supporting the war is declining. When asked if the war was
worth it, only 35% of the US public answers "yes". This is
different from what occurred six months ago or three months
ago. Every day there is a more striking difference between
the editorials and the news reports. While the editorials
do not make fundamental criticism of the war, the news
articles report on the increasing number of casualties of
the US forces. These past weeks, as you know, reports have
come out on the torture of Iraqi prisoners. When the US
people see this history time and again, it has an eroding
effect on their belief in the government. Yes, Lincoln was
right, but he didn't say how long it would take.

You have shown yourself as an optimist on the idea that the
people can change the world if we do it all together, no
matter how insignificant it may seem. Of course, the
intellectuals are part of that people. What could they do
to change the world?

The intellectuals can only do part of the job. When a
nation changes, it is not because of the work of the
intellectuals. Yes, the role of the intellectuals has an
effect, but the greatest effect is the reality. When it
reaches the people. There is the example of the movement
against the war in Vietnam. At the beginning, two-thirds of
the US people supported the war. Two years later, this same
number opposed it. What happened in the meantime? Of
course, the intellectuals with their articles and teachings
had an effect, but the most important factor was the
reality. It was reported in the great mass media. An
example was the publication of the photographs of what
really happened in Vietnam. Sometimes the intellectuals
have an exaggerated view of their own importance.
========================================= Translated by Ana
Portela for CubaNews La Jiribilla, Vol. 3, Number 157, May
8-14, 2004

Actualizado 4:30 P.M. (hora local) La Habana, viernes 7 de
mayo del 2004. Año 8 / Número 128



Cada día con usted en: http://www.granma.cubaweb.cu /
http://www.granma.cubasi.cu / http://granma.co.cu

The Human Reality of War Changed My Life Confessions made
to Cubans, by one of the most prestigious American
historians, playwright and activist against imperialist

Howard Zinn has a scar in his soul as a veteran of the
Second World War. Enlisted by the Air Force as a
bombardier, his mission was to drop heavy and deadly bombs
over German cities. Upon his return to the United States he
thought he was a hero until he learned of the atrocities of
the nuclear explosions of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and he
looked out on the real world

“We had defeated German Nazism" – he comments – "Italian
Fascism and Japanese Militarism, but we soon learned that
fascism continues to exist. We defeated Hitler’s racism but
in other parts of the world and in my own country, it
existed. Later is the fact that, from the air you don’t see
or feel anything, the enemy is an abstract idea. When I
learned of the human reality of war, my life changed.”

This 82-year-old man who moves with youthful energy across
the United States, calling for an end to the occupation of
Iraq, shared these thoughts with an incorruptible
intellectual honesty. Three decades before he did the same
during the war in Vietnam and last year he signed the Call
to the Conscience of the World in defense of Cuba. His
activism is an assurance of the great prestige of his
historical and academic work. His book, The People's
History of the United States (1980) has been sold for over
20 years in almost forty editions and over 800,000 copies.
He has also done high-ranking analytical journalism in the
alternative press.

His lightening quick 48 hour presence in Cuba is in
response to an invitation of the Cuban Book Institute and
the National Council of Theater Arts since the Cuban Social
Sciences publishers will soon issue one of his most
renowned works and the actor, Michalis Cué will perform his
successful monologue, Marx in Soho, now a classic of
contemporary US theater.

Zinn lives intensely his Havana hours talking with
intellectuals, visiting historical places and having
contacts in Havana University with a promise to return


When did you feel the need to rewrite the history of your

“When I had the certainty that the official history, that
in the texts books, inculcated in us a mythical dimension
of our nation. And that lies had been added upon more lies
on certain events. I want to tell it from the point of view
of the victims, the soldiers sent to war, the workers who
were exploited for the purpose of swelling an enormous
wealth. Do you want a greater lie than insisting that, by
the end of the 19th century, the United States helped the
Cubans to win their independence?

How has your book been received? Have you been accused of
not being objective?

“Let’s answer the first part. The book has had a better
circulation than I expected. But if you look at things
carefully, you get an idea at how capitalism works. The
publishing house is part of the Rupert Murdoch
conglomerate, a brutal example of the right. But when
people began to find out that the book offered a different
view of history, the editorial house did not hesitate to
promote more sales. Profits are profits and that is the
first law of the system. As to the objectivity of history,
I think that, in this matter, it is not also desirable.
Those who call themselves objective lie because they pick
events and cover up their taking of sides. I do not hide to
say: this is my point of view, it is not the only one, face
it and make your own conclusions.


How do you think the people of the United State feel about
the current situation in Iraq ?

I think that increasingly more people are tired of this war
and understand that it is an operation of occupation and
not a liberation, as proclaimed by the official propaganda.
The dead beginning to arrive are a heavy burden and the
effect of a resistance grows and has converted the
occupation into an impasse. Unfortunately, many of those
who oppose the war do not do so for ethical reasons; rather

Will you talk of what you have seen in Cuba ?

It is very necessary. If the average person of the United
States learns, first hand, the daily life in the island,
the advantages the Revolution has promoted, they would stop
to think in clichés.


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