Howard Zinn comments on the future of the progressive movement, a potential third party

The Real News Network recently interviewed the famous historian Howard Zinn, whose most famous book is A People’s History of the United States.  He addressed topics including his new movie, the significance of labor unions, the success of Obama’s administration, Ron Paul’s followers, and the potential for a large third party forming.

His comments on a new third party were a continuation of his comments on the future of progressives and how they might advance their goals through politics:

HOWARD ZINN, HISTORIAN AND AUTHOR: If the situation continues to be as bad as it is or gets worse—and, in fact, I don’t think it can remain just as it is. I think it probably will get worse if these very weak policies of the Obama administration do not change into something bold. If the situation does get worse, then what alternatives, politically, will people have? They could vote for a Republican. They could create a new progressive wing of the Democratic Party which transforms the Democratic Party and creates a possibility of new, bold policies. Or if the Democratic Party looks so hopeless, refuses to change, continues in its present path, it’s quite possible that a third party could emerge, a party which will say to the American people, “We know the Republican Party. We had them. We had them under Bush. They got us into enormous trouble. We’ve now had eight years of the Democratic Party there, incapable of taking us out of this economic crisis, and they still have our sons and daughters overseas dying in wars. We need a new party.” And I can see the possibility of a third party emerging and speaking to the American people and saying, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to get our young people out of wars. We’re going to stop war. We are going to cut down the military budget to the point where it’s simply a defensive operation. We have not defended ourselves. Despite the fact we have a Department of Defense, every war that we have fought since World War II has been an offensive war, an aggressive war. We are going to create free health care for everybody. We’ll even guarantee jobs to people who lose their jobs. We are going to guarantee adequate social security for older people. We are going to guarantee that people who want to go to college and can’t afford it will be able to go to college. These are the things we promise to do, and we have the money to do it, and we can show you where we have the money to do it: through a new taxation policy and through the cutting down of the military. I think a bold program like that, advertised widely—and, of course, this is always a problem with any new party that’s trying to crash the barriers—advertise on the Internet, advertise in every possible way, would speak to what the American people want, is that the program that I just outlined, I believe, is what the American people want. I believe the American people are sick of war. I believe the American people—and they’ve shown us in poll after poll—want a government-run health system. I don’t think the American people are as afraid of big government as the leaders of the Democratic and Republican Party are. So I think a new party that speaks very boldly and clearly in simple language to the public and presents to them a program which they’ve been waiting for and which neither party has given them, such a party could succeed.

On the topic of the Ron Paul movement and independents in America, he said:

ZINN: I think there is ground for appealing to Republicans who are not die-hard Republicans, who are Republicans because they don’t see any really exciting alternative. And I think there’s a very large number of Republicans who are with Ron Paul’s idea of no more war, no more militarism, no more foreign bases. And I believe that these people who are not, as I say, the hardcore of the Republican Party but who are a certain percentage of the Republican Party, I think these people can be appealed to by a new party. You know, many polls over the years have shown that when you ask Americans to classify themselves as Democrats or Republicans or independent, huge number of them classify themselves as independent—they only vote Democrat or Republican because they have to, because they don’t see an alternative. And so the problem is to present to them a viable, attractive alternative.

The entire interview is posted below (note:  it is shorter than the time on the Youtube videos would suggest because there is a pitch for donations that lasts a few minutes at the end of every video). The fifth and last part is the one in which he talks about third parties:

Part 1: Class in America

Part 2: We are brought up to believe there’s only one class

Part 3: Send a message to Obama

Part 4: Unions and the movement

Part 5: The movement and new parties

30 thoughts on “Howard Zinn comments on the future of the progressive movement, a potential third party

  1. Trent Hill

    Zinn: Get together with Cynthia McKinney, Cindy Sheehan, Ralph Nader, and Matt Gonzales and launch that party. It’d be fun for the rest of us.

  2. Melty

    With all this talk of time ripe for new parties . . . are there any poppin up anywhere?

  3. Eternaverse

    Noam Chomsky, Amy Goodman, Roseanne Barr and Naomi Klein should join too. A whole new leftist party to replace the Greens, Peace and Freedom, Vermont Progressives ect.

  4. jason

    No, what will happen in real life will be that Americans will see the Democrats sucked for eight years, so they’ll bring back the Republicans. They’ll see the Republicans sucking for eight years, so then they’ll bring back the Democrats. Then the Democrats will suck for eight years, so… Sorry to sound cynical, but every year I’m told that it’s “the year for third parties,” but in the 2008 presidential election, third parties, write-ins and independents altogether garnered a whopping 1.4% of the vote. Don’t see any third parties in Congress, either (unless you count that hawk Lieberman or my favorite Senator, Bernie).

    I only vote third party/independent, and I will till the day I die. But I’m also a realist.

  5. Gene Berkman

    Just as a historical fact, Howard Zinn was a member of the Citizen’s Committee for Nader-LaDuke in 2000. (Source: “Crashing the Party” Ralph Nader’s memoir of the campaign)

  6. Trent Hill

    “A whole new leftist party to replace the Greens, Peace and Freedom, Vermont Progressives ect.”

    Not to replace, but to augment the power of–the Greens, Peace and Freedom Party, and Progressives. I think the California Peace and Freedom Party and Vermont Progressive Party would be the strongest cog in that network of national parties. The Working Families Parties in NY and CT might also join if it was viable enough.

  7. Robert Milnes

    A “…network of national [progressive] parties…” I could endorse if there was no alternative. The progressive/libertarian alliance is by far the best strategy.

  8. Michael Cavlan

    Being worked on folks. I know that if you want to work small, local races then you can work with the Green Party.

    If your issues are more along the national, international bent (like Wars and Funding, Patriot Act, FISA, NAFTA etc etc) then Peace and Freedom is the way to go.

    This seems to be the main point of contention with those people leaving the Greens in droves.

    The GP seems determined to cripple any campaign that is of a national, International issues based campaign. Based on personal observations.

  9. Michael Cavlan

    Oh yes, to make this comment as a National delegate or on the Green Party watch site would be enough to get ones thoughts banned.

    Green Party censorship is a horrifying thing to watch.

    No cornflakes were pissed on in the making of this post. Fragile egos may be bruised though.

  10. Green Ferret

    The Peace and Freedom party might have trouble getting traction outside of CA, since it is overtly socialist.

    The Working Families Party is not interested in challenging the Democrats. The WFP’s work so far has been almost entirely to elect Democrats. They endorsed Hillary Clinton; think they’ll challenge Obama?

    Zinn needs to realize that he is not just a historian anymore; people are looking to him for leadership. Draft Howard Zinn for Green-Rainbow gubernatorial candidate in 2010!

    Cavlan: I have zero interest in a flame war. However, I find it interesting that when I asked you to actually state your problems with the Greens in a previous post, you didn’t show up. Yet you hijack every other thread to further your personal vendetta; that is not dissent, that is trolling. That’s like going to a convention and starting to yell about how the Green Party US planned 9/11 whenever someone else tries to speak. The webmaster of Green Party Watch was patient and invited you to dialogue, but it seems you’d rather run around ‘warning’ everyone about the Green Party than ever explain what you’re warning us about. So I’m sorry that some Green somewhere hurt your feelings, but you don’t have to take it out on the rest of us. Good luck with your new party.

  11. Michael Cavlan

    Green Ferret

    I am only too happy to discuss with you mine and others serious problems with the GP.

    The moderator of GP Watch did NOT invite me to dialogue. In fact, the mod acted just like the members of the National Steering Committee.

    At each and every attempt to put forward our grievances, we were shut out and banned.

    So, no flame wars as you call it.

    Let us start a thread here. Open public debate, with no moderator who can shut it down if the conversation gets uncomfortable.. An absolutely neutral moderator..

    Those of us that have left have very very serious and legitimate concerns.

    So Green Ferret, let’s do this, shall we?

  12. Michael Cavlan

    BTW, you may not be aware that your responses so far have simply shown you blatant arrogance.

    You arrogant prick, you think you folks have “hurt my feelings?” You do not seem to understand just how committed activists think or operate..

  13. Green Ferret

    “So, no flame wars as you call it.”

    “BTW, you may not be aware that your responses so far have simply shown you blatant arrogance.

    You arrogant prick…”

  14. bazzz

    I don`t think he`s an idiot he knows what a flame war is he`s just being a giant asshole to prove something that isnt clear yet.

    Maybe he just want to get some attention, come here let me give you a hug.

  15. Tim Matthews

    Why is this a forum for insults and useless behavior? The objective is to support a progressive political party that is by, for and of THE PEOPLE. Can we do this?

  16. Calvin

    The Progressive/Libertarian alliance could work if whack-jobs like Milnes weren’t promoting it.

  17. Michael Cavlan

    Melty

    I am no longer a Green. I was a National delegate and had ran as the Green Party of Minnesota endorsed candidate for US Senate in 2006.

    Calvin, the ideals of a progressive/libertarian/independent alliance is being worked on, right now in Minnesota.

    We are traveling and organizing all over the state right now.

    No cornflakes were pissed on in the making of this post. There was no censorship either.

    I am makinng points here, not just being an asshole. There are Greens fleeing the party all over the country.

    There is a reason that Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez did not seek the GP endorsement.
    For the record, I was a rabid Cynthia McKinney fan, right up until I realized that her campaign was used simply to attack Ralph Nader.

    Simple concepts like Respect for Diversity, Grassroots Democracy and good old fashioned Solidarity left the GP a long time ago.

    THAT is why so many former Greens have fled the Green Party.

  18. paulie

    the ideals of a progressive/libertarian/independent alliance is being worked on, right now in Minnesota.

    In what ways are you bringing in libertarians?

    Simple concepts like Respect for Diversity, Grassroots Democracy and good old fashioned Solidarity left the GP a long time ago.

    Please provide some specifics.

  19. Green Ferret

    “For the record, I was a rabid Cynthia McKinney fan, right up until I realized that her campaign was used simply to attack Ralph Nader.”

    Anything to back up this accusation?

    Melty: most Greens act like adults (or if not like stereotypical adults, at least like fun-loving, peaceful hippies). Go to Green Party Watch and you’ll find a generally high caliber of discourse. I know of just one case where an unnamed party was banned for inveterate trolling.

    Tim: I agree completely. There’s a lot of good info to work with on IPR, if we don’t get bogged down in petty bickering and name-calling. This post on Howard Zinn is a great example.

    I’ve been thinking for some time that the Massachusetts Green-Rainbow party should make an effort to draft Howard Zinn as its next candidate for governor. Zinn is well-known and well-loved, an engaging speaker, and shares Green values of nonviolence, social justice, democracy and sustainability. He was involved with Nader/Laduke 2000, and he certainly has no illusions about the Democratic Party.

  20. scatterbrain

    What America needs is a “Progressive Coaliton”: an alliance of Greens, independents, progressives, Rooseveltian liberals(as opposed to Clintonian liberals), socialists, communists, anarchists and libertarians(preferably the not the kind that wants to criminalise abortion, have a Ron Paul fetish or want an armed barricade across the Mexican border), that can organise democratically and plan the best way forward.

  21. paulie

    free market anarchist and minarchist libertarians would be dwarfed in such a coalition by those who oppose individual property rights.

  22. Green Ferret

    Hopefully Obama’s first term will show progressives that the only path to real change is to support a party that shares their values, namely the Greens. In “deep blue” congressional districts and one-party Democratic cities, progressives could greatly increase their influence by going Green.
    Socialists, anarchists and libertarians are welcome, but these groups tend to be fractious and prefer splinter groups to coalitions.

  23. Green Ferret

    “Sorry to sound cynical, but every year I’m told that it’s “the year for third parties,” but in the 2008 presidential election, third parties, write-ins and independents altogether garnered a whopping 1.4% of the vote.”

    Bad year for progressive third parties thanks to Obamarketing.

    If Ron Paul had gone Libertarian, things would’ve been more interesting.

    Folks need to realize that vague threats of going third-party don’t scare the powers that be. To get what you want, you have to join/start an actual party, get organized, and run against the Republicrats.

    After 8 years of disastrous GOP rule, the Dems are engaging in a massive redistribution of wealth… upwards. If current trends continue, there will be plenty of space for a progressive third party to make an impact in coming years.

    To be more specific: if Howard Zinn would run as the Green-Rainbow party’s candidate for governor in MA, the Greens could become MA’s second party.

  24. scatterbrain

    Paulie, I have long thought about the private property-“clash”, but over the years I have discovered a temporary solution to such a problem: The Georgist Land-Value tax or “Geo-Tax.” This should keep both sides happy until one idea or the other is eventually voted out or declared irrevelent. All other conflicts should be solved democratically by majority, although factionalism should be heartilly allowed unless the movement itself is at stake, in which case a purge, however disheartening it may be, is the only way to ensure survival.

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