Many of us probably wondered where groups like Occupy Wall Street got their ideas and tenants that they were supposedly fighting for. One place can be found right in your junior college classroom, in a gem of book called “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn, or as I affectionately call it “The Second Communist Manifesto.” Below is an updated version of one of my college essays done in response the book in an attempt to draw a correlation between Zinn’s ideology and that of OWS.
Zinn’s thesis is to tell history from the point of view that is against pro-capitalist governments. He believes that capitalism is the root of America’s problems, that these governments should be overthrown by a bloody revolution, and that they should be replaced with communist societies. Contrastingly, excessive regulation on the free market, over-printing of money, high taxes, and increasing national debt due to excessive spending by the government are only a few of the alternative sources for America’s economic problems.
While some groups may think that they are ready for Zinn’s solution (i.e. Occupy Wall Street), the majority of American’s believe that capitalism is still the economic structure that should be used and that the government should stop abusing it (i.e. The Tea Party). Now when I first read this thesis I thought that the U.S. military would be a daunting force deterring such a bloody revolution as Zinn advocates. However, there was a great deal of violence that took place at the Occupy Wall Street protests and to my knowledge little to no action took place in response. Obviously, they did not reach the level of violence that Zinn called for, but I wonder how far OWS could have gone without receiving severe remedial action. Howard Zinn (and OWS for that matter) would not be strictly Marxist if they did not advocate in favor of violence, thus they cannot peacefully protest without deviating from their ideology.
According to Zinn, “incentives of cooperation” are natural human desires.” He believes that human nature is basically good and that it is the economic and governmental structures that bring about the evil. This line of thinking is severely flawed since humans create these structures. His view of human nature comes into play in specifically in reference his anticipated result of his bloody revolution. He states that his bloody revolution will usher in “a new culture of sharing, of respect, a new joy in the collaboration of people to help themselves and one another.” In reality, the countries that experience communist societies have resulted in the wealth of a small elite and a miserably poor existence for the rest of the society.
I find it particularly interesting that the exact verbiage used by Occupy Wall Street is in Zinn’s 23rd chapter. “One percent of the nation owns a third of the wealth […]. This is possible because the more of the 99 percent that begin to see themselves as sharing needs, the more the guards and the prisoners see their common interest, the more the Establishment [capitalist government] becomes isolated, ineffectual.”