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Zinn's of Omission

To follow up my post a few days ago, I thought I should note Ron Radosh's comments on Howard Zinn's FBI file.  Radosh grew up in the world of American commnists, and has studied the Party's history closely, so he knows the turf.

So what is in these files? First, the FBI had evidence that Zinn was a member of the Communist Party of the United States, and lied about his membership when being interviewed by FBI agents. The first file on the subject appeared in March of 1949, when an informant noted "that he (ZINN) is a Communist Party member and attends meetings five days a week." Zinn was then employed by the American Labor Party, which itself gives credence to the informant's report. By that date, the ALP- created in the early forties to give NYC labor a left-wing ballot on which to vote for FDR-had been taken over lock, stock and barrel by the CP. It never would have hired non-Party members as full time employees.

Another informant described Zinn as a "person with some authority" in the CP group to which they belonged. Zinn, he said, taught a course for his comrades on "basic Marxism." On June 12, 1957 another informant told the Bureau that when he was transferred to the Williamsburgh branch of the Party in 1949, "HOWARD ZINN was already a member of that section." It was his impression that  "ZINN was not a new member, but had been in the CP for some time."

Zinn, however, denied he was a Communist when questioned by the FBI in 1953. It is important to note here that unlike those who testified before Congressional investigating committees, Zinn was not under oath. The reason Zinn denied his membership was the same as that for other  Communists. The Party instructed them not to, even when asked to testify before committees like HUAC. As some of the Hollywood Ten members revealed years after their own investigations, if they said they were Reds, that would only prove that the Red-baiters were right when they called them Communists! It would undermine their pose as good liberals, who were only taking pro-Soviet positions because they genuinely believed in them, not because it was the Party line.

Read the whole thing.  Radosh makes a strong case that it was Zinn, not the FBI's informants, who lied about Zinn's party membership.

Categories > History

Discussions - 6 Comments

If I am not mistaken, the American Labor Party was founded in 1936 as the electoral vehicle of the garment unions. It did not have any chapters outside of New York State. The Ladies' Garment Workers and the Hatters Union seceded in 1944 and formed the Liberal Party. The Amalgamated Clothing Workers remained, however, and did not cease to support the party until 1954. I think it may have lost its official ballot line that year and dissolved in 1956. Prior to 1944, it could command about 20% of the vote in New York. It was not a purely extra-parliamentary party either and had a small caucus on the New York City Council, in the state legislature, and in Congress.

The Popular Front aspect of the ALP and the crypto-Communists in the party membership were the proximate cause of the secession of 1944. However, I would be quite skeptical of the contention that the ALP was a subsidiary of the Communist Party. There was at the time a dismaying willingness on the part of prominent politicians and labor skates to make common cause with the Communist Party, but that is something different from saying their power was derivative of their association with the CP or that they took orders from the CP. Vito Marcantonio was, however misguided on many questions, an established figure in New York politics when the CP was a tiny and self-isolated sect.

I should note that among my dearest friends was a man who was on Vito Marcantonio's staff immediately after the war, not a party employee but someone on patronage. He was certainly not promising material for the ranks of international Communism and maintained decades later some disgust at how the press had characterized the ALP (which had hundreds of thousands of registrants), even though he ceased to be an active member after 1948.

Robert Stacy McCain had an informative post on Zinn's past. The burden of demonstration is definitely on those who contend he was not a member.

I have been a dedicated reader and follower of David Horowitz since reading his best-selling book "Radical Son" in 1996. Since then I have read the majority of his books and read his Frontpage Magazine site/blog daily. Horowitz has been saying for years that Zinn was a member of CP. Who would know better than David Horowitz, who has admitted time and time again that he was a Red Diaper baby turned ultra-conservative and was in the forefront of the SDS, Berkeley and Columbia Riots as well as an editor for the Ramparts Magazine in the 1960's. I think David Horowitz has much more proof that the FBI could ever have.....

It's interesting cowgirl, that you give so much credence to Horowitz - after all, Mr. Adams' original post was about how Zinn's having been a communist is reason to be "leary" of him and his works. Sure, Horowitz made a huge switch but he was at one point a pinko himself - does credibility primarily (and magically) come from agreeing with you?

While such people can sometimes (emphasis on sometimes) be interesting, those who make huge leaps from left to right or right to left are often just flaky and unprincipled in an overall sense.

Horowitz's jump from left to right caused the left to have massive fits and drug-induced hysteria. Horowitz makes the left go crazy now, this is obvious after reading your kool-aid induced post, even years after his switch. Let me educate you on the main point of his switch. The Black Panthers in Oakland, who Horowitz supported whole-heartedly, raped and murdered a good friend of his, Bettty Van Patten (a white woman), who was working as an accountant for the Black Panther's
"School" in Oakland California. On top of that there were other friends of Horowitz that were beaten and murdered by the Black Panthers while Horowitz's was working for the Huey Newton to make a success out of the Black Panther's School in Oakland. If you call that flaky and unprincipled, then the Koolaid is working. You might want to attempt to get the facts by reading Radical Son, but I doubt you will. Your ideology is far too gone for any discussion. By the way - how is hope and change working for you. On you on your way to Spain also for a $370,000 vacation? One more thing - please understand I don't give a rats A$$ on whether you agree with me or not. The First Amendment guarantees free speech, which I support 100%. However it doesn't prevent you from making an imbecile out of yourself while practicing it.

The precise quotation from R. Adams is as follows:

More evidence that we should be leary of those who think his People's History of the United States is the best and most important book to read about U.S. history.

Zinn was more-than-likely a member of an organization dedicated to the interests of Soviet Russia and remained of similar disposition all his life. For that reason, I would tend to be leery of people promoting his work (who seem to occupy gatekeeper positions among the body of academic historians).

Mr. Horowitz has been quite transparent about his political views throughout his adult life and has not advocated anything particularly perverse in 35 years.

Useful follow-up, Richard, with lots of help from AD.

I trust Radosh's take.

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