Category Archives: Government

Look What’s in the Warner Library!

Warner Library serves Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow. There’s a big browsing section of what new books the library bought.

(2015-05-27 001)Authors: Howard Zinn, Mike Konopacki, Paul Buhle

Title: A People’s History of American Empire: a Graphic Adaptation

Publication Information: New York, N.Y.: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Co., c2008; 1st ed.

ISBN: 978-0-8050-7779-7; 0-8050-7779-0; 978-0-8050-8744-4; 0-8050-8744-3

Library of Congress Classification: E183.7

Dewey Decimal Classification: 973

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
United States–Foreign relations–Comic books, strips, etc.
United States–Territorial expansion–Comic books, strips, etc.
Imperialism–History–Comic books, strips, etc.
United States–Social conditions–Comic books, strips, etc.
Social movements–United States–History–Comic books, strips, etc.
Zinn, Howard, 1922- –Comic books, strips, etc.
Historians–United States–Biography–Comic books, strips, etc.

This graphic novel is based on Howard Zinn’s book, The People’s History of the United States. As Paul Buhle states in the preface, “It is intended to present key insights in Howard Zinn’s marvelous volume in light of another art form …”

This isn’t the history you learned in grade school.

The graphic novel hits key points in U.S. history, led by Howard Zinn, who is portrayed as a speaker at an anti-Iraq War rally. Zinn starts at the end of the nineteenth century, with the massacre at Wounded Knee, then goes on to discuss the Spanish-American War, and the conquest of the Philippines. The socio-economic conditions in the country at the turn of the century and how the so-called “robber barons” exploited the masses. This led to the creation of labor unions–and how the U.S. government did everything in its power to assist the capitalists against the unions.

All activities of the U.S. government are for capitalism–the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned of in his farewell speech. Nothing here was of any great surprise to me. There were some “Ahhhhh” moments, such as the revelation that Woodrow Wilson, in an attempt to ensure that the Entente Powers could continue to buy American-made munitions even when bank credits could not cover the cost, allowed the Federal Reserve Banks to accept “bankers’ acceptances” from them. This, according to Zinn, amounted to an act of war (p. 84). Then there was the suggestion by Zinn that the U.S. dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to quickly end the war before the Soviet Union could invade Japan. Thus, the Japanese surrendered to the U.S.

Then there’s the depressing antics of the Central Intelligence Agency in Latin America: El Salvadore, Nicaragua, etc. that merely created misery for the people in those countries. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans differ on their foreign policy, which is done to create new markets. The Iran-Iraq War? We supplied both sides with armaments. Making money is the name of the game. Iran-Contra is covered, and the only man who went to jail (for four days) from it was sentenced for stealing a street sign (p. 230).

Perhaps the most bizarre chapter in the whole book is seven, “The Cool War.” In the 1950s, there was a concerted attempt to enforce conformity to prove that the “American way of life” was far superior to communism. However, war was declared on those who wore the “zoot suit,” a fashion statement that was seen as subversive during the war and after. There were attempts to keep apart Mexican Americans, African Americans, and White Americans as they listened to R&B and danced to it. Comic books came under fire as “subversive,” which led to self-censorship under the Comics Code Authority. “Loyalty oaths” were forced on workers in government and the private sector. It was in this atmosphere that Eugene McCarthy’s communist witch hunt thrived.

A very thought-provoking book. Zinn ends on a positive note. Things CAN be changed, as the end of the Vietnam War, segregation, and Solidarity’s eventual overthrow of the communist system in Poland, demonstrate. People can change the system for the better.

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Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Communist Manifesto

Marx-Communist Manifesto (2013-09-05 007)Title:, Communist Manifesto

Author: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

Publication Information: Originally published in 1848 [Kindle edition]

Library of Congress Classification: HX39.5

Library of Congress Subject Headings:
Communism

This is an interesting book, but I’m going to try and keep this review short.

I love reading over Amazon.com reviews, if for no other reason than to weed out the idiotic ones that are just knee-jerk reactionary. The “evil” Communist Manifesto, and how wrong Marx and Engels were in their assessment of society. Most of these reviewers directly link the Soviet Union as the “model” of what communism is, when it could not be further from the truth.

Communism calls for the eventual withering away of government. The government of the Soviet Union was not “withering” in any sense of the word. What the Soviet Union (and, for a while, the People’s Republic of China) proved is that communism can be a tool of dictatorships to further control the people. It does not generate money the way these dictatorships want, which is why capitalism is a much better tool. Hitler’s control of Germany was assured when he was able to take control of the capitalist economy. The popular mode of capitalism in the United States in corporate capitalism.

What is so unsettling is that Marx and Engels were able to predict many things that have come to pass 148 years before they happened . They saw big corporations exploiting the world market and creating “a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country” (p. 64). The exportation of the American way of life has been one big factor in generating production and consumption based on the Western model (p. 65). Of course they blame the bourgeoisie as the motivators of this new model of production.

Just who are the bourgeoisie? Basically everyone who does not work a blue collar job or who is incredibly poor and destitute. This lumps the rich and the middle class together, which doesn’t make me feel comfortable. Still, the corporate capitalism that has overtaken the United States could not have been done without the consent of the middle class, a large part of which still support it.

Could communism work? No. Government is a necessary evil; it can never “wither away.” Without government, there would be chaos. There must always been an authority to fill the holes in the street, make the buses run, replace burned out traffic lights, etc. Taxes are the only way to get the money to maintain society’s infrastructure. It’s idealistic to think that humans could live without some type of government. (And no, I’m not going to pitch-in with others and fill potholes.) The ancient Greeks believed that laws—created and enforced by government—were what separated them from the barbarians.

More realistically, and contrary to what Marx and Engels believed, socialism could work. It allows for the (limited) ownership of property and limits the size of private business, which would benefit society. A handful of greedy idiots could not bring down the world economy like was done in 2008. A truly pure socialist government that could exist remains to be seen. A hybrid of capitalist and socialist elements are the norm in Western Europe; even the United States has the “evil” socialism in the guise of welfare, social security, and unemployment. Health care is the one that’s missing, and it looks like it will not be added any time soon.

I would never rule out Marx and Engels. What they have to say gives one pause to consider the current socioeconomic structure—and what might happen if things do not change for the better for everyone.