The Historian of Popular Democratic Movements in U.S., Who Became its Pulse and Inspiration

“For us in the United States, it is hard to accept the idea that the ordinary workings of the parliamentary system will not suffice in the world today. But…Jefferson himself… spoke of the need for revolutions every twenty years… And Robert Michels, the Swiss sociologist, 150 years after Rousseau, showed us how an ‘iron law of oligarchy’ operated within any government or any party to separate top from bottom and to make power-holders insensitive to the needs of the mass. No matter how democratic elections are, they represent only fleeting and widely separated moments of popular participation. In that long span between elections, people are passive and captive… Thus, we face a dilemma: wars and revolutions today cannot be limited and are therefore very perilous. Yet parliamentary reform is inadequate. We need some intermediate device, powerful but restrained and controlled, to pressure…the decision-makers into making the kinds of change in institutions which fit our world… No form of government, once in power, can be trusted to limit its own ambition, to extend freedom and to wither away. This means that it is up to the citizenry, those outside of power, to engage in permanent combat with the state, short of violent, escalatory revolution, but beyond the gentility of the ballot-box, to insure justice, freedom and well being.”
Howard Zinn, “The Zinn Reader (Writings on Disobedience and Democracy)”, Seven Stories Pr, 1997, p. 618

“Those of us reared in the tradition of liberal, gradualist reform, and cherishing tranquility, may have to learn to sacrifice a little of these in order not to lose all of them. Such a course may not be easy, but it is not a bad substitute for the world… of simplistic and terrible solutions, where we oscillated constantly between two alternatives: the devastation of war or the injustice of peace.”
Howard Zinn, Ibid, p. 619