|Top Row Rashad
Jabri from Peace in the Hood at a Gang Summit, Jackson Browne, Bonnie
Hanley, John Trudell, Disposable Heroes of HipHopcracy, Converge, Tom
Lablanc, David Crosby holding photo of Hiroshima survivor who is
holding Crosby's son, the black and white photo he is holding is taken
by Tom Conant. The Goddess Blue with snake. Ziggy Marley. Santana.
Howard Zinn’s Rage Against
By Charles M. Young, Rolling Stone 10 17 1996.
A People's History of the United States. And You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train; A Personal History of Our Times. Zinn
Zinn: The orthodox definition of power tells you that the people who hold political office and the people with the most money are the most powerful and everybody else has no power. But what happens again and again in history is that regular people by the simple act of getting huge numbers of themselves together can cause the people with power to surrender. Henry Ford had everything. He had guns. He had secret police, he had money. His workers had nothing except the right to withhold their labor and when they did, in unison, Ford was helpless. He had sworn he would never sign a contract with a union and then he did.
Young: Right, now there's a very popular rock band called Rage Against the Machine They're overtly revolutionary and are big on arming the peasants and storming the citadels of power. But in the past you've always made the case for minimal violence, if not nonviolence.
Zinn: I can't call myself an absolute pacifist. I can't claim that historically you can make change without any violence. But I do think violence is dangerous for any movement. Violence is sort of a confession of inept organizing. The Weather people believed in bombs and they were a very small number of people. They didn't have the patience to do the long term organizing of people into movements, movements that will engage in militant actions and militant actions that may result in violence. If you organize enough people to take actions, the government will bring out the bombs and guns. Some violence is inevitable. But I think the strike is a much more powerful weapon than the guerilla attack. The revolution will not take place at the polls by political means. And it will not take place by grasping for power at the center. That's why the anarchists didn't believe in the Bolshevik Revolution. They didn't believe you could just take power in Moscow and St. Petersburg, because then the revolution would be from the top down. The only way you can have a real revolution is to organize people all over the place and when you get to the point that you can call a general strike, you bring society to a halt. The people in power cannot use their power then because there are too many fires to put out. I've written about violence and my experience as a violent man in the Air Corps during World War II. Violence on the level of war is not even a question for me. Even for a good purpose, war is absurd. By its nature, by its technology, war has become so massive and indiscriminate that no possible good can come of it. The violence of revolutionary movements is more complex. It's hard to argue against those who take up arms against a brutal terrorist regime, but they have to be very careful to avoid indiscriminate violence and thereby lose the people they are trying to help. To some extent that happened in El Salvador. When I went to demonstrations during the anti-war movement, if some guy wanted to throw a rock through a store window to express his rage, Id stop him if I could. If he went ahead and threw the rock, I thought two things; 1. This person is a nut who hasn't thought through what he's doing. 2. He works for the FBI. He's a provocateur. The FBI loves to do things like that, to make movements look bad by sending in very scummy people to suggest ugly actions.
President Clinton seems like a guy who has completely internalized authority after a brief fling at disobedience when he was avoiding service in Vietnam. He hasn't gotten us into any wars, but he bombed Baghdad, Iraq, after the supposed plot to assassinate George Bush in Kuwait and killed at least 6 people who bore no moral responsibility for original infraction, if it ever happened.
You weigh the uncommitted violence against Bush, who was hardly an innocent person, against a very clear act of violence against innocent people and that bombing was a monstrous act. I don't know if you remember when President McKinley was assassinated, in 1901 (I always like to talk about current events.) He was assassinated by this…I guess you could call him a madman. I hesitate to call assassins mad just because their target is the president. It could be a rational decision. Then there are all these presidents who commit murder, and we don't call them mad. Nobody called McKinley mad for killing a million people in the Philippines, but they called this guy Czolgosz mad for killing McKinley. They also described Czolgosz as an anarchist a dubious description. He was a little off his nut, and he'd attended some anarchist meetings. But he wasn't an anarchist in any important sense. The real anarchists immediately dissociated themselves from him, except for Emma Goldman. She said he didn't agree with his act but refused to condemn him. If she condemned him, she would have to condemn lots of other people who had done worse things, and she could understand his rage after all of McKinley’s atrocities.
Martin Luther King Jr., the apostle of nonviolence, had a similar reaction to the riots that broke out all across the country in the spring of 1967. All these reporters were asking, “What do you think of all these blacks who are running through the streets and breaking into stores and who knows what?” He refused to condemn them. He said he understood what motivates them and you should understand it too, or you're going to be in for a lot more of it.