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From the Pen of David Horowitz: December 11, 2009

Posted on December 11 2009 4:31 am
David Swindle is the Managing Editor of NewsReal Blog and the Associate Editor of FrontPage Magazine. Follow him on Twitter here
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The perspective that informs the nearly seven hundred pages of A People’s History is a plodding Marxism supplemented by the preposterous idea that nation-states are merely a fiction, and only economic classes are “real” social actors:

Class interest has always been obscured behind an all-encompassing veil called “the national interest.” My own war experience [in World War II], and the history of all those military interventions in which the United States was engaged, made me skeptical when I heard people in high political office invoke “the national interest” or “national security” to justify their policies. It was with such justifications that Truman initiated a “police action” in Korea that killed several million people, that Johnson and Nixon carried out a war in Indochina in which perhaps 3 million died, that Reagan invaded Grenada, Bush attacked Panama and then Iraq, and Clinton bombed Iraq again and again.

This passage illustrates the continuity of leftwing myths in shaping the consciousness of radical generations. A Stalinist in his youth, Zinn retains into his seventies the same ideological blinders he wore as a young man. America’s defense of South Korea against a Communist invasion from the North was not initiated by the United States as the Communist propaganda machine maintained at the time. It was a response to the Communist aggression, which was initiated by Stalin himself according to most recent historical accounts. The war and subsequent American support for the South Koreans resulted in their liberation from both poverty and dictatorship. South Korea was, in 1950, one of the poorest third world countries with a per capita income of $250, on a level with Cuba and South Vietnam. Fifty years of American protection, trade and investment has made South Korea a First World industrial nation with a reasonably stable democracy. By contrast North Korea, which was the industrial heart of the Korean peninsula and which the American armies failed to liberate – thanks to Zinn’s political allies at the time – is an impoverished totalitarian state that has starved more than a million of its inhabitants in the last decade, while its Communist dictator hordes scarce funds to build an arsenal of nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles. The rest of Zinn’s examples are equally tendentious and amount to little more than communist propaganda.

Not surprisingly, Zinn describes the founding of the American Republic — the world’s most successful democratic experiment as an exercise in tyrannical control of the many by the few for greed and profit. “The American Revolution…was a work of genius, and the Founding Fathers deserve the awed tribute they have received over the centuries. They created the most effective system of national control devised in modern times, and showed future generations of leaders the advantages of combining paternalism with command.” In Zinn’s reckoning, the Declaration of Independence was not so much a revolutionary statement of rights as a cynical means of manipulating popular groups into overthrowing the King to benefit the rich. The rights it appeared to guarantee were “limited to life, liberty and happiness for white males” – and actually for wealthy white males — because they excluded black slaves and “ignored the existing inequalities in property” (in other words, they were not socialist). This is an absurd view of the Declaration and of the history of the Republic to which it gave birth, but it is the entrenched belief of the political left for whom Zinn is an icon and his tract canonical.

The attack on the American Founding is crucial to the outlook shared by Zinn, Chomsky, and the entire spectrum of the left that has declared its separate war on America. It is central to understanding the left’s animus and the fact that no particular event – least of all a foreign policy event like the war in Iraq — is required to generate the kind of self-hatred evidenced during the Iraq protests. There is nothing original in Zinn’s book, nor has he engaged in any serious research other than to fill in the dots of Communist clichés.

A People’s History of the United States reflects a leftwing culture that despises America in its very roots. As a result of the left’s colonization of the academic social sciences, this anti-American culture is now part of the educational curriculum of America’s emerging elites, and as much an element of the cultural mainstream as any other historical tradition. Indeed, it is a dominant element. In 2004, the Organization of American Historians devoted an evening at its annual convention to honor Zinn and his work.

Todd Gitlin, former SDS leader and now Professor of Sociology and Journalism at Columbia University, summed up this academic triumph in these words: “My generation of the New Left – a generation that grew as the [Vietnam] war went on – relinquished any title to patriotism without much sense of loss … The nation congealed into an empire, whose logic was unwarranted power. All that was left to the Left was to unearth righteous traditions and cultivate them in universities. The much-mocked ‘political correctness’ of the next academic generations was a consolation prize. We lost – we squandered – the politics, “but won the textbooks.”

Unholy Alliance

NewsReal will be critiquing “The People Speak” after it airs on Sunday on the History Channel.

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