Howard Zinn on Emma Goldman, Anarchism & War Resistance

Emma Goldman is largely an unknown figure today. She deserves wider recognition. She was born in Lithuania and died in 1940. She spent many years as an organizer in the United States. She was a major anarchist thinker and activist as well as a passionate advocate for women’s rights. Anarchism today is mostly viewed negatively. It’s seen as a synonym for disorder and chaos. Few recognize it as a political philosophy rooted in the ideals of the Enlightenment. Noam Chomsky calls it “the libertarian wing of socialism.” Anarchism not only opposes the institutions of state coercion and violence, it questions the very legitimacy of the state.



Howard Zinn, professor emeritus at Boston University, was perhaps this country’s premier radical historian. He was born in Brooklyn in 1922. His parents, poor immigrants, were constantly moving to stay, as he once told me,” one step ahead of the landlord.” After high school, he went to work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. During World War II, he saw combat duty as an air force bombardier. After the war, he went to Columbia University  on the GI Bill. He taught at Spelman, the all black women’s college in Atlanta. He was an active figure in the civil rights movement and served on the board of SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He was fired by Spelman for his activism. He was among the first to oppose U.S. aggression in Indochina. His book “Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal” was an instant classic. A principled opponent of imperialism and militarism, he was an advocate of non-violent civil disobedience. He spoke and marched against the U.S. wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. His masterpiece, “A People’s History of the United States,” continues to sell in huge numbers. Among his many books are “A Power Governments Cannot Suppress” and “Original Zinn.” Just before his death he completed his last great project, the documentary “The People Speak.” Always ready to lend a hand, he believed in and practiced solidarity. Witty, erudite, generous and loved, Howard Zinn, friend and teacher, passed away on January 27, 2010. His words inspire many the world over, “We don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future. To live now, as human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

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