This article below by Howard Zinn provides some very interesting and thought-provoking ideas. I would encourage people to read, and then read it--- over and over again.
The essay, however, lacks some critical details about the "New Deal" which Zinn continues to evade, and intentionally ignores because of his anti-communist bias which prevents him from fully understanding the New Deal.
If Zinn would be able to drop his anti-communist bias which has prevented him from objectively analyzing history he would be much more effective as a leading voice on the left for social change.
To intentionally leave out the role of the Communist Party USA is not something specific to this particular essay of Zinn's; it is part of his continuing and long held view that because he disagrees with Marxism he has the right to ignore its major proponent--- the Communist Party USA. Zinn has done the same thing in an otherwise very entertaining and educational play he wrote: Marx In SoHo. In this play Zinn completely ignores the role of communist party clubs as he attempts to inform the audience about what Marxism is.
First, in the essay below, Howard Zinn who is a historian fails to note that the movements which he credits with pushing President Franklin Roosevelt forward in a progressive direction were organized, by-and-large, by the Communist Party USA.
In fact, Willian Z. Foster ran for President on the Communist Party USA ticket against Roosevelt in 1932 in a campaign which focused on the need for the reforms (and socialist revolution)and in the 1936 Presidential Election which Zinn focuses on in the essay below, Earl Browder ran for President on the CPUSA ticket outlining in complete detail the kind of reforms needed by farmers and working people to survive the Great Depression.
In fact, it was William Z. Foster who was the major shaper and architect of the New Deal reform package of which Earl Browder fine-tuned the "New Deal" for implementation... because of the way Browder did this he became recognized as the foremost champion of the needs and rights of the working class in the United States. Because of the way Earl Browder conducted his presidential campaign in reaching out--- first and foremost to the working class, and then to all segments of American society, it became impossible for the "New Deal" not to be implemented.
While Zinn correctly acknowledges, in his essay below, the need for movement building to push who ever is elected president in 2008 towards a new "New Deal" and "Beyond the New Deal," he fails to understand that these "movements" in the 1930's were, by-and-large, the results of many years of painstaking, grassroots and rank and file work by members of the Communist Party USA who worked through the Communist Party clubs they were members of. The unions, the unemployed councils, the progressive political campaigns, the civil rights activities which sowed the seeds that latter blossomed to destroy Jim Crow... none of this grew out of "thin air" or out of mere "hope." The organizational base had been created and established.
Zinn and the "new" activists he influences are going to have to consider, learn and understand this very special role of Communist Parties if they want to see real change in this country because none of these "movements" Zinn refers to were the products of the anarchism (with a mix of Marxism and non-Marxist socialism), which he adheres to and advocates; such thinking is useful in as much as it gives "hope" to there being an alternative to capitalism; but, without building the base and foundation for real grassroots and rank and file activism this "hope" will remain mere words uttered by an actor playing Karl Marx in a Zinn play which fails to acknowledge the role of communist clubs as being an integral part of Marxism... at least the kind of Marxism which contributes to movement building and real change.
Second, the struggle for the "New Deal" reforms was not merely anti-capitalist as Zinn would have us believe; this struggle was based on a movement that was anti-capitalist and pro-socialist; very pro-Soviet, in fact. Public ownership and nationalization were demands which were strenuously and vigorously advanced.
In fact, the movements which gave birth to the "New Deal" reforms were so unmistakably anti-capitalist and pro-socialist that those who fought in opposition to these "New Deal" reforms more often then not noted the similarities between these needed reforms and socialism that anti-communism was the foundation and basis for attacking the "New Deal" reforms. The main proponent of these "New Deal" reforms in the Roosevelt Administration was Secretary of Labor--- Frances Perkins.
In response to the anti-communist attacks on the "New Deal" reforms, which often took the line that what was being advocated was taken straight from the "Communist Manifesto," Labor Secretary Frances Perkins boldly responded to this red-baiting.
Unfortunately, Howard Zinn is not able to be as honest as Frances Perkins whose typical response to this red-baiting was: I would rather see these reforms in reality helping people, rather than words in a pamphlet.
If Zinn and other liberals and progressives really want to see movement towards a new "New Deal" which goes beyond the "New Deal," they are going to have to pitch in and help rebuild the Communist Party USA and help to establish Communist Party Clubs all over this country.
Zinn is going to have to re-assess his own version of "red-baiting" which includes writing the activities of the Communist Party USA out of history, and Zinn is going to have to re-think his anarchist, non-Marxist socialist views. I don't even know how anyone can be a "non-Marxist" socialist.
Here in Minnesota--- and around the Midwest, Zinn's anarchist, non-Marxist socialist views are leading to defeat after defeat for progressives. These views have left progressives trapped and in a bind with no alternative in the political and electoral arena. These pseudo-progressive views have left many on the left thinking that developing alternatives to the capitalist economic crisis and imperialist wars will be found in the next demonstration.
To be sure, demonstrations in the streets are an important and integral part and component of fighting for an alternative agenda. However, without building a solid foundation and base to work from in the mines, mills and factories and in working class communities aimed at fighting for needed reforms and at taking power, demonstration after demonstration leads to nothing except one more demonstration.
People should be moving from demonstrations into movement building where they live, go to school and work. Demonstrations should not be seen as something separate from electoral work and building community-wide, state-wide, regional and country-wide networks of activists working on specific issues while always trying to make the links to capitalism and the need for socialism.
Anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and pro-socialist education leading to more advanced organization which leads to greater unity of action is what is called for.
Zinn seldom talks of class; nor mentions "working class."
Zinn talks of mobilizing "citizens;" but, he seldom mentions mobilizing the working class; let alone mentioning the united front of the working class led by the Communist Party USA which formed the most important contingent of the all people's front which successfully fought for the "New Deal" by transforming the Roosevelt Administration, an otherwise capitalist government, into a reflection of this all important all people's front which became the government.
Frances Perkins, Harry Hopkins, Henry Wallace and others in the Administration who worked closely with Fred Stover, Paul Robeson, Minnesota's two popular socialist Governors Floyd Olson and Elmer Benson and at the grass-roots the movers and shakers were people like the UAW's Wyndham Mortimer, Phil Raymond and Nadia Barkan along with Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party organizer John Bernard--- the Communist Party member whose organizing skills resulted in getting himself elected to the United States Congress where he became one of the primary champions of implementing the "New Deal" reforms. William Z. Foster and Earl Browder provided the leadership.
In fact, the Communist Party USA was in the forefront of organizing the Farmer-Labor Party nationally and this party became so successful many thought that Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party Governor Floyd B. Olson would present a socialist challenge to FDR for the presidency because Roosevelt was implementing the "New Deal" too slowly... they admonished Roosevelt for giving in to the ultra-right in droppoing socialized health care from the "New Deal" reforms... even Roosevelt himself feared such a challenge from Floyd Olson who got up from his death-bed and traveled to Washington D.C. to plead the case for socialized health care with Roosevelt.
It will take much more than "one big demonstration" to get "Beyond the New Deal." What is required is building upon the progressive legacy, base and foundation which gave birth to the "New Deal."
What we need to get "beyond" is not the "New Deal;" but this pseudo-progressive thinking of academics who have the luxury of indulging in this grossly distorted history which continues to exclude the role of the Communist Party and Communist Party Clubs.
Zinn does not give any particulars as to what he means by "beyond" the "New Deal."
When I think of moving "beyond" the "New Deal" I think of public ownership of the closing auto plants like the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant to save two-thousand jobs at a factory that could easily be employing more than 4,000 workers... an issue Howard Zinn, the liberal radical refuses to address.
When I think of moving "beyond" the "New Deal," I think of politicians who have the courage to stand up and say "NO" to two-million workers across this country going to work in loud, noisy, smoke-filled casinos at poverty wages without any rights under state or federal labor laws... the very laws created by the "New Deal" for all other workers.
Why is it so hard for Howard Zinn and those who profess this new blend of anarchist/latte-liberal/non-Marxist socialism to be able to stand up and say that the creation of some four hundred right-to-work colonies created around the Indian gaming industry is wrong? Not once has Zinn or The Nation Magazine had the courage to address this issue; why?
Tens of thousands of "adjuncts" are employed in the college/university community across this country... these are Zinn's colleagues. These "adjuncts" or "part-timers" are teaching those who will be in the forefront of creating the next expanding capitalist bubble in the new "green" society; yet, these "adjuncts" aren't even being paid what amounts to living wages by the most prestigious of colleges and universities! These universities are forcing "adjuncts" to live in poverty!
Ironically, these "adjuncts" aren't much better off than casino workers!
How do we move "beyond" the "New Deal" when massive industrial unions created largely by the "New Deal" are "negotiating" wages and working conditions down towards what they were as the "New Deal" kicked in to benefit working people?
Zinn, whose books have been used to "educate" many of the present day "enlightened" union leaders, does not explain how we can move "beyond the New Deal" with the "leadership" of industrial unions moving to the political "right" while laying claim to being the friends of the bosses.
How do we move "beyond the New Deal" when you have a union leadership like the UAW Local 879 leadership in the Twin Cities taking the position that the demolition of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant is a good progressive thing so that upscale housing can be built in its place as thousands of homes are sitting vacant because working people have been evicted from their foreclosed homes?
Abe Lincoln was right in stating,
"Corporations have become enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow..."including, I might add, the corruption of union leaders who have the unmitigated gall to take union dues from workers who will lose their jobs because these union leaders have been bought off by the Ford Motor Company and are in bed with corrupt politicians as they will try to explain that destroying the the jobs of the members they have been elected to represent is really for their own good.
How do we move "Beyond the New Deal" when corrupt Democratic Party politicians like Chris Coleman- Mayor of St. Paul- publishes a deceitful, self-severing booklet, "Two Year Progress Report in St. Paul" containing this lie: "After fighting along with Councilmember Pat Harris to keep the Ford Plant open..."(page 6).
Neither Coleman nor Harris has fought to save the Ford Plant let alone keep it open and save the two-thousand jobs.
In fact, even though Mayor Chris Coleman mesmerized a recent townhall meeting with his knowledge and glowing adulation of former Communist Party USA Chair, Gus Hall; Mayor Chris Coleman has refused to even consider--- or even just explore--- the possibility of public ownership of the Ford Plant--- a concept that many governments, including in Canada, have used to save plants and entire industries. St. Paul Mayor forgot to mention is his tribute to the late Gus Hall one of Hall's most popular sayings, "Put people before corporate profits."
In fact, Mayor Coleman sent his trusty, corrupt, lying, little sidekick--- Council member Pat Harris--- to oppose S.F 607, the attempt by several well-meaning state legislators to save the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant.
How do we get "Beyond the New Deal" without being able to put forward alternatives to allowing a Plant like the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant to be shut down, then demolished, to make way for up-scale housing as thousands of good housing sits vacant and deteriorating because of the foreclosure mess? St. Paul doesn't need more homes... what it does need is a plan to get people back into their homes. On top of the foreclosure issue there are thousands of empty apartments people can not afford to live in within the City of Saint Paul.
I raise this question of casino workers, university adjuncts, and Ford workers because without a program that begins to come to grips with such very basic problems confronting working people, I question whether or not we can maintain the "New Deal," let alone move beyond the "New Deal."
We had a "Working Class Studies Association" holding its national conference in the Twin Cities and the closing of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant wasn't even addressed by the President of the Association--- Peter Rachleff, or one of the major participants in the conference--- former UAW official Jerry Tucker who now says he is opposed to the present UAW contract; is Tucker in favor of saving the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant as part of the fight-back against this sell-out contract? If so, what does he advocate? We haven't heard from his group.
And, an outfit like "Freedom Road Socialist Organization" which publishes its "Fightback" newspaper out of the Twin Cities never mentions public ownership as a legitimate response to saving a perfectly good auto plant and two-thousand jobs through public ownership as it talks about "voting no" on a sell out contract--- part of which is the closing of the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant!
On top of this, we have professor "egg-head," Erwin Marquit, of the University of Minnesota going over to lecture the Chinese about the virtues of "market socialism" that everyone knows is a codeword for "capitalism;" then claiming in a lecture on "Chinese market socialism" delivered to the Twin Cities Chapter of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom that capitalism is good for China and he sees no relationship between what is going on in China and the Ford Plant closing here in Minnesota.
It would seem to me that before we start talking about going "Beyond the New Deal" we need to understand how the "New Deal" really came to be and in the process get our "bearings" as to where we want to be headed and what "tools" we are going to have to use to think all of this through.
As far as I am concerned, on-the-job training is always the best training. If we want to get "Beyond the New Deal" we better start reading and studying Karl Marx and find out how the movement was built and came together to win the "New Deal," something we haven't been very successful in defending, let alone moving "beyond."
Howard Zinn might want to study a few books and re-write this essay... he might start out by reading "Always Bring A Crowd, The Story of Frank Lumpkin, Steelworker." Peter Rachleff and Michael Zweig might want to put it on their class' "must read" list, too. After that, maybe some reading from Wyndham Mortimer like his autobiography, "Organize." The left in general would do well to put Henry Kraus' book, "The Many and the Few" on the "must read" list.
I can't figure out how the anarchists who don't even believe in organization, the non-Marxist socialists and the latte-liberals have come to dominate the "left" in the United States. Must be the Communist Party USA is slacking off, bought off, or stuck in a revisionist rut--- maybe a little of each considering how corrupt capitalism is.
One thing for sure, we can forget about moving "Beyond the New Deal" as long as Howard Zinn can't even talk about the terrible situation of his "adjunct" colleagues and spit out the word "casino worker" from between his lips, nor mumble, "Save the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant and two-thousand jobs." Imagine... Zinn sends an actor playing Karl Marx to the Twin Cities and he never mentions the Ford Plant closing issue and now Zinn writes about moving "Beyond the New Deal."
The "New Deal" saved the St. Paul Ford Twin Cities Assembly Plant, once.
Among the endorsers of the the "Center for Labor Renewal" I see many students of Howard Zinn school of thought. Perhaps if Zinn were to more honestly reflect upon Marxism in his writings rather than picking and choosing what is safest, most convenient and most comfortable for him many people would have a better handle on things and a better grasp of how to accomplish real change.
At some point we really need to consider some hard facts:
* Most people in the United States are not happy with the economy.
* Most people are not happy with no alternative to the Democrats and Republicans.
* Most people want this dirty war in Iraq to end.
* Most people are for health care reform.
* Most people are for the minimum wage being a real living--- non-poverty--- wage.
* Most people want clean air to breath, clean water to drink and healthy food to eat.
We get just the opposite of what everyone is for.
Howard Zinn sure hits the nail on the head as far as what most people are looking for... but, he sure isn't helping us figure out how to get there.
From: April 7, 2008 issue Nation Magazine
Beyond the New Deal
By: Howard Zinn
We might wonder why no Democratic Party contender for the presidency has invoked the memory of the New Deal and its unprecedented series of laws aimed at helping people in need. The New Deal was tentative, cautious, bold enough to shake the pillars of the system but not to replace them. It created many jobs but left 9 million unemployed. It built public housing but not nearly enough. It helped large commercial farmers but not tenant farmers. Excluded from its programs were the poorest of the poor, especially blacks. As farm laborers, migrants or domestic workers, they didn't qualify for unemployment insurance, a minimum wage, Social Security or farm subsidies.
Still, in today's climate of endless war and uncontrolled greed, drawing upon the heritage of the 1930s would be a huge step forward. Perhaps the momentum of such a project could carry the nation past the limits of FDR's reforms, especially if there were a popular upsurge that demanded it. A candidate who points to the New Deal as a model for innovative legislation would be drawing on the huge reputation Franklin Roosevelt and his policies enjoy in this country, an admiration matched by no President since Lincoln. Imagine the response a Democratic candidate would get from the electorate if he or she spoke as follows:"Our nation is in crisis, just as it was when Roosevelt took office. At that time, people desperately needed help, they needed jobs, decent housing, protection in old age. They needed to know that the government was for them and not just for the wealthy classes. This is what the American people need today.
"I will do what the New Deal did, to make up for the failure of the market system. It put millions of people to work through the Works Progress Administration, at all kinds of jobs, from building schools, hospitals, playgrounds, to repairing streets and bridges, to writing symphonies and painting murals and putting on plays. We can do that today for workers displaced by closed factories, for professionals downsized by a failed economy, for families needing two or three incomes to survive, for writers and musicians and other artists who struggle for security.
"The New Deal's Civilian Conservation Corps at its peak employed 500,000 young people. They lived in camps, planted millions of trees, reclaimed millions of acres of land, built 97,000 miles of fire roads, protected natural habitats, restocked fish and gave emergency help to people threatened by floods.
"We can do that today, by bringing our soldiers home from war and from the military bases we have in 130 countries. We will recruit young people not to fight but to clean up our lakes and rivers, build homes for people in need, make our cities beautiful, be ready to help with disasters like Katrina. The military is having a hard time recruiting young men and women for war, and with good reason. We will have no such problem enlisting the young to build rather than destroy.
"We can learn from the Social Security program and the GI Bill of Rights, which were efficient government programs, doing for older people and for veterans what private enterprise could not do. We can go beyond the New Deal, extending the principle of social security to health security with a totally free government-run health system. We can extend the GI Bill of Rights to a Civilian Bill of Rights, offering free higher education for all.
"We will have trillions of dollars to pay for these programs if we do two things: if we concentrate our taxes on the richest 1 percent of the population, not only their incomes but their accumulated wealth, and if we downsize our gigantic military machine, declaring ourselves a peaceful nation.
"We will not pay attention to those who complain that this is 'big government.' We have seen big government used for war and to give benefits to the wealthy. We will use big government for the people."
How refreshing it would be if a presidential candidate reminded us of the experience of the New Deal and defied the corporate elite as Roosevelt did, on the eve of his 1936 re-election. Referring to the determination of the wealthy classes to defeat him, he told a huge crowd at Madison Square Garden: "They are unanimous in their hatred for me--and I welcome their hatred." I believe that a candidate who showed such boldness would win a smashing victory at the polls.
The innovations of the New Deal were fueled by the militant demands for change that swept the country as FDR began his presidency: the tenants' groups; the Unemployed Councils; the millions on strike on the West Coast, in the Midwest and the South; the disruptive actions of desperate people seeking food, housing, jobs--the turmoil threatening the foundations of American capitalism. We will need a similar mobilization of citizens today, to unmoor from corporate control whoever becomes President. To match the New Deal, to go beyond it, is an idea whose time has come.