Posted on | July 31, 2010 | 86 Comments
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) document drop on the Left’s favorite anti-American historian:
On July 30, 2010, the FBI released one file with three sections totaling 423 pages on Howard Zinn, a best selling radical historian, teacher, playwright, and political activist. . . .
In 1949, the FBI opened a domestic security investigation on Zinn (FBI File # 100-360217). The Bureau noted Zinn’s activities in what were called Communist Front Groups and received informant reports that Zinn was an active member of the CPUSA; Zinn denied ever being a member when he was questioned by agents in the 1950s. In the 1960s, the Bureau took another look at Zinn on account of his criticism of the FBI’s civil rights investigations. Further investigation was made when Zinn traveled to North Vietnam with Daniel Berrigan as an anti-war activist.
Although Zinn denied being a member of the CPUSA, the FBI file discloses that several reliable informants in the party identified Zinn as a member who attended party meetings as many as five times a week.
What’s more, one of the files reveals that a reliable informant provided a photograph of Zinn teaching a class on “Basic Marxism” at party headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, in 1951. A participant in the class said that Zinn taught that “the basic teaching of Marx and Lenin were sound and should be adhered to by those present.”
The FBI file also includes information on Zinn’s pro-Castro activism and support for radical groups such as the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Progressive Labor Party (PLP), Socialist Workers Party (SWP), and Black Panther Party. Much of the latter was in connection with Zinn’s support for a communist military victory in Vietnam.
Read the rest of that. What is important to note here is that Zinn evidently joined the Kremlin-controlled CPUSA not during the “Popular Front” era of the 1930s — when many idealists were seduced — but after the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in which Stalin cruelly and cynically sacrificed Poland to the Nazis. Zinn was a card-carrying Commie who advocated Marxism-Leninism after the Red Army’s “Iron Curtain” occupation of Eastern Europe, after the treachery of the Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss had been revealed, and even during the height of Stalin’s anti-Semitic “Doctors’ Plot” purge!
UPDATE: Going through the PDFs and — wow! — Zinn’s file from the 1940s and ’50s makes for fascinating reading to anyone familiar with Communist Party history. Any innocent liberal might have unwittingly joined a CPUSA front group or two. But only a card-carrying Commie would have joined every front group that came along, as Zinn evidently did:
“ZINN came to Washington, D.C., on March 25 , and helped picket the White House on March 26, 1948, in connection with the picketing sponsored by the American Committee to Protect the Jewish State and the United Nations. ZINN indicated that he is a member of the Communist Party and that he attends Party meetings five nights a week in Brooklyn.”
This is a perfect example of how Communist front groups operated, seeking to exploit various “causes” for their own purposes. Of course, there were many Americans, Jewish and otherwise, who supported the founding of Israel in 1948. But the CPUSA’s purpose was to glom onto the pro-Israel cause for purposes of propaganda and recruitment, so they formed this ad-hoc committte (ACPJSUN), whose name vaguely resembled that of the (mainstream, non-communist) American Jewish Committee. These front groups were often no more than a letterhead and a post-office box, but could be used to solicit donations from well-meaning people who didn’t realize that they were contributing indirectly to the CPUSA. Furthermore, these phony organizations with innocent-sounding names would issue flyers, pamphlets, advertisements and letters to newspapers, pushing the CPUSA propaganda line on the relevant issue. Of course, anyone who inquired about membership in the front group became a candidate for recruitment to other similar groups, and perhaps eventually into the CPUSA itself.
“The June, 4, 1948 issue of the ‘Daily Worker’ reflects that HOWARD ZINN was a member of the Steering Committee of the Veterans Committee against the Mundt-Nixon Bill. ZINN was among the group of the National Veterans Caravan to Washington, D.C., on the anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1948.”
Again, we see how the Communists exploited “causes” — veterans, patriotism and D-Day — for their own purposes. Zinn was a leader of an ad-hoc front CPUSA group trying to stop the 1948 Mundt-Nixon Bill (subsequently incorporated in the McCarran Act) that required all members of the Communist Party to register with the Attorney General. Note that this was before Joe McCarthy had turned anti-communism into his signature issue. By 1948, it had become evident to the FBI and most other Americans who paid close attention that the Communist Party USA was subversive — a carefully controlled tool of Soviet policy, rather than an independent organization of idealists. Thus, CPUSA members were agents of a foreign government and could be required to register as such. The fact that Zinn was prominently named in the CPUSA’s official paper, The Daily Worker, in connection with the protest against the Mundt-Nixon Bill is further evidence of Zinn’s importance in the CPUSA hierarchy at the time.
“He is working with an organization to assist the [Henry] WALLACE Third Party Movement. On the night of March 27, 1948, he intended to attend a rally in Brooklyn sponsoring the WALLACE Movement, a which time he was supposed to give a report on the picketing of the White House in Washington.
ZINN expressed his interest with regard to the Third Party Movement, indicating that the Communist Party was 100% behind this movement.”
Of course, the “Progressive” campaign of 1948 by former FDR Agriculture Secretary Henry Wallace was indeed backed to the hilt by the CPUSA. Harry Truman’s anti-Communist turn had fractured the New Deal coalition, which had been fully supported by the pro-Soviet “Popular Front” of the 1930s. The extensive detail about his activities that Zinn was willing to divulge to the FBI informant indicates that the informant must have been highly trusted as a CPUSA member or ally of the Communist movement.
“HOWARD ZINN, of the Kings County Committee, American Veterans Committee, advised an employee of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee on February 11, 1947, that the American Veterans Committee was sending as delegates to the conference of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee on February 16, 1947, BOB GOLDNER, 30 Ocean Parkway, and HOWARD ZINN, 926 LaFayette Avenue, Brooklyn, New York. . . .
This information was contained in a letter from the Milwaukee Office [of the FBI] to the Atlanta Office dated June 14, 1947, regarding Communist infiltration into the American Veterans Committee.”
From Wikipedia, we learn that the American Veterans Committee publicly purged its Communist members in 1948. The Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee, formed as a charity to benefit refugees from the Spanish Civil War, was designated a Communist subversive organization pursuant to a 1947 executive order of President Truman. The JAFRC sued, which led to a famous 1951 Supreme Court ruling. Eleven members of the JAFRC board were sentenced to prison in 1948 and were celebrated as innocent martyrs by Communist writer Howard Fast in a 1948 pamphlet and a Daily Worker column.
This entry gives further insight into how the FBI conducted its investigations. Zinn’s name had come up in reports in 1947 and ’48, but these were not collated into a file until 1949. Zinn’s membership in the Communist-infiltrated AVC, and his role as a delegate to the JAFRC (designated a Communist organization), would tend to indicate that he played a key role as an organizational liaison for the CPUSA.
“ZINN filed claim for ‘property damage’ against the State of New York, resulting from the ‘Peekskill riots.‘ Subject’s wife solicited signatures to New York State Communist Party Nominating Petitions, in 1946. ZINN and wife members of International Workers Order, Brooklyn, New York, 1949.”
Heh — the infamous “Peekskill riots,” a once-famous cause célèbre of the Left. Singer Paul Robeson, who had been associated with the Communist movement for years, made some very controversial pro-Soviet comments at a “peace conference” in Paris. He had also testified in Congress against the Nixon/Mundt/McCarran law. When it was announced that he would give an August 1949 “civil rights” concert near Peekskill, N.Y., this inflamed local sentiment to such an extent as to spark a riot in which 13 people were injured.
The International Workers Order was a very interesting organization which, among other activities, sponsored “Camp Kinderland,” one of the camps where so-called “Red Diaper babies” (children of CPUSA members) spent their summers. Like the JAFRC, the IWO was listed as a subversive group by the U.S. Attorney General in 1947.
Note in this FBI entry one of the factors that helped inspire sympathy for accused Communists. In 1946, when Zinn’s wife was leading a petition drive for the Communist Party, there was no law against CPUSA membership and — the Soviets having recently been a U.S. ally in World War II — the Zinns had no reason at that time to believe that their support for the Party would subsequently be viewed as a matter of criminal investigation. There was therefore a certain ex post facto element to these anti-Communist probes.
“It is further to be noted that the Civil Rights Congress has been designated a Communist organization by the Attorney General and comes withint the purview of Executive Order 9835.”
Once again, as with the “American Committee to Protect the Jewish State and the United Nations,” we see how Communist-front organizations operated by allying themselves with various causes, in this case “civil rights.” That Zinn was a sincere believer in racial equality, there can be no doubt. Yet the CRC was a Communist-controlled organization that sought to exploit the civil-rights issue to benefit the CPUSA’s Soviet controllers by discrediting the United States.
In his must-read memoir Radical Son, David Horowitz — whose parents were active members of the CPUSA during the same era — reflects at great length on the nature of Communist involvement in the civil rights movement and other such noble causes. Quoting a letter to a childhood friend whose parents were also CPUSA, Horowitz writes:
“Our parents were idolators in the church of a mass murderer named Joseph Stalin.”
Their commitment to “the totalitarian idea,” Horowitz saw, made Communists accomplices in the crimes of Stalin, who annihilated millions, and that commitment was ultimately motivated “not by altruism and love but nihilism and hate.” This verdict applies equally to Howard Zinn, although Zinn’s apostles on the Left will never be able to confront the true meaning of his totalitarian complicity.
UPDATE: Let the spin begin! Salon’s Justin Elliott manages to report the FBI document release without admitting the obvious fact demonstrated, namely that Howard Zinn was a Stalinist stooge.
UPDATE II: My God, talk about willful blindness! David Knowles of AOL News remains agnostic on Zinn’s CPUSA membership, despite acknowledging:
Zinn admittedly associated with numerous groups that the FBI considered to be communist, and the bureau cited several informants who identified Zinn as a member of the Communist Party.
We may charitably suppose that Knowles is insufficiently knowledgeable of CPUSA operations to understand how strong the FBI’s case was. Someone whose wife circulated Communist Party petitions in 1946, who functioned as a delegate from a Communist-infilitrated group (American Veterans Committee) to a group blacklisted by the Attorney General in 1947 (Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee), and whose leadership role in protests against the Nixon-Mundt Bill was reported by the Daily Worker — even if one can imagine an innocent explanation for such activities (coincidence!) there is this little telltale bit of evidence:
“On November 21, 1947, Confidential Informant [redacted] advised that the name of HOWARD ZINN, 926 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, appeared on a list of addressograph stencils at Communist Party Headquarters, 35 East 12th Street, New York City.”
Here, then, you have a direct link between Zinn and CPUSA. One of the things you can learn from M. Stanton Evans’ recent book on Joe McCarthy’s investigations, Blacklisted by History, is how deeply the FBI had penetrated CPUSA. One reason that McCarthy’s was sometimes unable to publicly substantiate his accusations was that he relied on secret information passed along by the FBI. McCarthy couldn’t identity the source of his information without compromising the FBI’s investigations, so when his critics tried to make it appear that McCarthy’s suspicions were without merit, McCarthy couldn’t simply say, “Here is the FBI file.”
As we see from this file, the FBI had access to the CPUSA mailing list, which is not the same as a membership list, but is certainly strong evidence when combined — as in Zinn’s case — with admitted high-level involvement in a slew of front-group activities.
UPDATE III: Even if all the other FBI files proved nothing, this 1957 memorandum based on information from a former CPUSA member would seem rather conclusive:
So, according to the informant, Zinn appeared to have been a member of the Brooklyn section of CPUSA before the informant joined that section in 1949 — tending to corroborate information previously developed by the FBI.
Here is something very interesting: George Kirschner is named as co-author of Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States: The Wall Charts. Whether this is the same person as the George Kirshner who reportedly hosted CPUSA meetings in Brooklyn in 1952 might be a subject worth researching.
At any rate, the fact that “Informant T-1” was “brought up on charges of ‘white chauvinism’ by the CP” is also very interesting. This was the kind of “thought-crime” inquisition to which CPUSA members were sometimes subjected. Certainly an avid Communist like the informant, who had been a Party member since 1948, could not have been an outright racist, so we don’t know why he would have faced such an accusation. But it should be kept in mind that Stalin purged and executed many of the original Bolsheviks on fabricated pretexts of “deviationism,” and a similar Stalinist impulse might have made “T-1” a scapegoat.
This would seem to be the clincher: “T-1” is reported to have taken a photo of Zinn teaching a class on Communist doctrine in 1951, and to have provided the photo to the FBI in 1956. Zinn reportedly “took the position [in the 1951 class] that the basic teachings of Marx and Lenin were sound and should be adhered to.”
In May 1955, the FBI had de-activated its “Security Index” card on Zinn, who at that time was working on his Ph.D. at Columbia University and teaching at Upsala College in East Orange, N.J. Zinn’s file was re-opened by the FBI’s Atlanta office in 1957, after Zinn joined the faculty of Spellman College in Atlanta. A few years later, during the Kennedy administration, Zinn wrote an article in the Sunday edition of the Daily Worker disparaging Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and the FBI for their supposed failure to protect civil rights — without ever acknowledging that Zinn himself had been interviewed a decade earlier by the FBI for his own Communist activities.
UPDATE IV: A little more Googling turns up George Kirschner’s December 2008 obituary in the New York Times, with commenters memorializing his association with Zinn:
KIRSCHNER–George. Beloved grandfather and greatgrandfather, father, husband, teacher and friend will be remembered for his contagious smile and energy, unwavering principles, profound sense of justice, unequivocal commitment to activism, and open and welcoming heart. Born in New York City, George served in the US Coast Guard during WWII. He began as a brewer, later went to college, and found his professional love as a teacher of history at the Walden School in New York City.
His age and biography as a longtime New Yorker would lend credence to the suspicion Kirschner was the same as the “Kirshner” listed in the FBI files as hosting Brooklyn CPUSA section meetings. So we may therefore presume that Kirschner is, like Zinn, now the only kind of good Communist.
UPDATE V: FBI files from the 1960s connect Zinn to a Who’s Who of the New Left anti-war radicalism:
In 1966, the main publication of the Socialist Workers Party, the Militant, reported Zinn joining with then-SDS president Carl Oglesby on a committee to defend a South African activist. After the SDS split in 1969 that led to the formation of the Weather Underground, Oglesby subsequently became a JFK assassination conspiracy theorist.
Zinn participated in a 1967 anti-war “teach-in” at Harvard, sponsored by SDS in cooperation with the American Institute for Marxist Studies, an organization founded by historian Herb Aptheker, chief theoretician of CPUSA.
At an MIT teach-in, Zinn was joined by Noam Chomsky.
In one of Zinn’s most infamous exploits, he traveled to Hanoi in 1968 with the radical priest Daniel Berrigan, an event hailed at press conference involving Tom Hayden (SDS co-founder and principal author of the “Port Huron Statement”) and socialist/pacifist Dave Dellinger, subsequently of “Chicago 7” notoriety.
What we see in all this, then, is how Zinn’s career forms a major thread in a rope that connects ’60s radicalism back to the Stalinism of the 1940s and ’50s. Zinn was a consistent advocate of Marxist-Leninist doctrine throughout his career, and it is amazing that his teachings — his anti-American history — are so popular nearly two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
America won the Cold War, but the Communists won the campuses.
UPDATE VI: Linked by Da Tech Guy and Laura at Pursuing Holiness. Meanwhile, Professor Donald Douglas reminds us that Michelle Malkin wrote a column about Zinn in December. That may explain why she took an interest in this topic, re-Tweeting me this morning.
Some of the “So what?” reaction — “Zinn was a commie? Big surprise.” — is kind of annoying. Not everyone is grasping the significance of Zinn actually joining the CPUSA circa 1946-53, when the Soviet Union was in the grip of Stalin’s paranoia and America was awakening to the nuclear terror of the dawning Cold War.
UPDATE VIII: Linked at Carol’s Closet.