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The Legacy of Howard Zinn

The legendary author and activist Howard Zinn passed away this evening at the age of 87. In one of his final interviews, Professor Zinn discussed how he would like to be remembered: for "introducing a different way of thinking about the world," and as "somebody who gave people a feeling of hope and power that they didn’t have before." 

The interview can be viewed here, and his remarks are quoted in full below:

Question: What do you want to be remembered for?

Howard Zinn: I guess if I want to be remembered for anything, it’s for introducing a different way of thinking about the world, about war, about human rights, about equality, for getting more and more people to think that way.

Also, for getting more people to realize that the power which rests so far in the hands of people with wealth and guns, that the power ultimately rests in people themselves and that they can use it. At certain points in history, they have used it. Black people in the South used it. People in the women’s movement used it. People in the anti-war movement used it. People in other countries who have overthrown tyrannies have used it.

I want to be remembered as somebody who gave people a feeling of hope and power that they didn’t have before.

Question: What is your philosophy?

Howard Zinn: I believe, I suppose, in what could be called democratic socialism. I believe that we need a society where the motive for the economic system is not corporate profit, but the motive is the welfare of people, health care, jobs, child care, and so on. But that is dominant. Where there is a greater equalization of wealth and a society which is peaceful, which devotes its resources to helping people in the country and elsewhere.

I believe in a world where war is no longer the recourse for the settling of grievances and problems. I believe in the wiping out of national boundaries.

I don’t believe in visas and passports and immigration quotas. I think we need to move toward a global society. They use the word “globalization,” but they use it in a very narrow sense to mean the freedom of corporations to move across boundaries. But what we need is a freedom of people and things to move across boundaries.

When I talk about socialism in our jails, I mean greater societal intervention into the economy, but without deprivation of civil liberties. Dalton Trumbo, the Hollywood writer, put it very simply. He said, “Socialism without jails.”

 

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