Eric Foner Preaches Marxism on Campus

 “Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University, is one of this country’s most prominent historians.” Professor Eric Foner 

The quote above is the first sentence on the homepage of Professor Eric Foner’s personal website. There is little doubt about who wrote this encomium, because footer of the homepage says “Copyright 2005 Eric Foner.”

Further down on the homepage the professor quotes another historian, who praises Foner in terms that would embarrass a more modest man. After praising Foner for his “voluminous scholarship,” Dr. Steven Hahn goes on to say that Foner “has had an enormous influence on how other historians, as well as a good cut of the general reading public, have come to think about American history.”

This statement is probably true, unfortunately. Dr Foner personifies everything that is wrong with academia in America, especially where history departments are concerned, and his influence is widely felt.

As Dr. Foner tells us on that same webpage, he is “one of only two persons to serve as president of the three major professional organizations: the Organization of American Historians, American Historical Association, and Society of American Historians, and one of a handful to have won the Bancroft Prize twice and the Bancroft and Pulitzer Prizes in the same year.”

He obviously holds a fair amount of status among his fellow historians. He also influences countless college students; not just those he instructs at Columbia, but the much larger number of collegians who get their introduction to American History from his shamelessly biased freshman textbook “Give Me Liberty.”

Even a cursory glance at Professor Foner’s writings makes it clear that he is a left wing radical, far outside the mainstream of American politics. The fact that his fellow historians keep electing him to lead their professional societies shows that Marxist politics are considered more or less normal among college history faculties.

Foner’s Crazy Politics

College professors in general tend to lean pretty far to the left, and history professors even more so. Professor Foner’s prominence among historians does not in any way imply that his political views are in line with those of the American mainstream. His views may be considered mainstream among history faculties, but they can only be viewed as radical when judged by the standards of ordinary Americans.

On October 4 of 2001, for example, Foner told the London Review of Books “I’m not sure which is more frightening: the horror that engulfed New York City or the apocalyptic rhetoric emanating daily from the White House.” He made these statements three weeks after the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center, while working at a university just a few miles from the site where human remains were still being removed from the wreckage.

Foner is surely one of the very few New Yorkers who had any trouble making a distinction between the Bush administration and the 9/11 hijackers three weeks after the attacks.

In the same interview, Dr. Foner when on to warn his fellow radicals that the 9/11 attacks could cause a backlash against Marxism, saying that “just as the signs were growing of a renewed confidence in the world anti-capitalist movement, the attention of the world’s leaders is focused on a single, dreadful act that gives them the excuse they need to gun the engines of oppression.”

Over the next several years a healthy debate developed between those who tended to support President Bush’s anti-terror policies and those who opposed them, with large numbers of good Americans on either side of the debate; but no one anywhere near the middle ground of American politics would say that the worst thing about 9/11 is that it gave capitalists an excuse to resist Marxism.

Only a left wing screwball would say things like that. It is an unfortunate fact that most of the professors we trust to teach our young people about American history are left wing screwballs like Dr. Foner. It’s another unfortunate fact that the Marxist radicals who populate history department faculties are so fearful of contradiction that they tend to blacklist any potential colleague who does not share their left wing beliefs.

A Red Diaper Baby

Foner grew up in a family of leftist radicals, and his views reflect those of his family, his friends, and his family’s friends.

His father and uncle, Professors Jack Foner and Philip Foner respectively, were both communist sympathizers who taught at City College of New York in the 1930’s. Both were fired during the anti-Communist backlash that followed Joseph Stalin’s 1939 cooperation pact with Adolf Hitler.

Despite being ethnically Jewish, the Foner brothers continued their support for the Communist Party during this period, when the Party was opposing FDR’s policy of support for England, and England was fighting for survival against Stalin’s partner in crime, Adolf Hitler.

The Foner brothers were close friends with other Communist sympathizers, including singer and activist Paul Robeson and author W.E.B. DuBois. After losing their jobs in academia, the Foners made their living for a time as musicians, and performed frequently with Robeson.

In his textbook, the younger Foner depicts both Robeson and DuBois as great heroes of the civil rights movement.

“Josef Stalin was a Great Man”

Robeson and DuBois were both Communist sympathizers, and quite vocal in their support for Soviet dictator and mass murderer Josef Stalin. Both were proud recipients of the Stalin Peace Prize. Robeson even boasted about a his Stalin prize in a magazine article.

When the Soviet butcher died in March of 1953, Robeson sang Stalin’s praises in another article. When Philip Foner later put together a collection of Robeson’s writings, he included this obscene eulogy to Stalin, apparently thinking that it was a work to be proud of.

DuBois published a eulogy for Stalin that was even more worshipful than Robeson’s. It starts out with the words “Josef Stalin was a great man,” and goes on to praise the dictator for his treatment of the Russian “kulaks” (peasant farmers who owned their own small farms). Stalin “drove out the rural bloodsuckers,” said DuBois, because they “clung tenaciously to capitalism.”

Stalin’s slaughter of the kulaks was similar in every way to Hitler’s treatment of Jewish business owners in Germany around the same time. It started with the same class-envy-based justifications, utilized the same types of rhetoric (“cockroaches,” “bloodsuckers”), and ended in the same kind of mass murder. Yet it’s hard to imagine a modern day American history professor lionizing someone who believed that “Adolf Hitler was a great man,” and praised Hitler specifically for his tough treatment of supposedly greedy Jewish bankers and business owners.

In his textbook, Foner praises Robeson and DeBois without mentioning his family relationship to them. Dr. Foner’s ultra-left-wing political views are, perhaps, not surprising; given the way Communist leaders like Stalin were admired in the Foner household when the professor was a child.

Foner in Writing

Professor Foner’s far left views animate everything he writes, whether he’s writing for ultra-liberal fringe magazines like The Nation, or writing serious pieces for other scholars, or writing a textbook for gullible eighteen-year-old college freshmen.

The professor makes no pretence of being a political moderate when he’s writing for liberal magazines and websites. In one of his articles for The Nation, for example, he expresses his opinion that Hurricane Katrina was a “man-made disaster” inflicted on black Americans by President Bush and other racist white guys. In another article he complains that the last three Democrats to hold the White House were not liberal enough. In another, he uses very strong language to condemn the State of Texas’ recent efforts to insert a few observations from a conservative perspective into public school history books.

The Professor’s complaints about conservative bias creeping into history textbooks are amusing, given that he himself has written a history textbook designed to indoctrinate college students into his own radically leftist political perspective.

When the professor writes for other scholars he makes his views pretty plain. In one published article he uses the word “tragedy” to describe the failure of early twentieth century Marxists to gain control of the U.S. political system.

Marxist Propaganda as “History”

Dr. Foner’s textbook is similar to the texts other leftist historians have published, in that Foner slanders anyone and anything anti-Communist while using language that sounds balanced and reasonable. In that sense his textbook has a different feel from that of his magazine articles and scholarly works, where he uses stronger language and is more candid about his biases.

He admits in the textbook that the Rosenbergs stole nuclear weapon secrets for Stalin, yet somehow manages to portray their conviction and punishment as a miscarriage of justice. He depicts American GI’s who fought against Communism in Vietnam as nothing but rapists and murderers. He portrays Chinese leader Chiang Kai-Shek, who fought Communist leader Mao Zedong for control of China, as the villain; and portrays Mao as the heroic freedom fighter.

Throughout the book Dr. Foner disparages the free enterprise system, Judeo-Christian values, and Western culture in general. He praises the Communist Party USA for its supposed commitment to human rights, and depicts any expansion of government power as a triumph of Good over Evil.

Conclusion

Eric Foner, like most college professors, becomes indignant whenever he’s accused of having a leftist bias. He’s even engaged in public mud-slinging contests with conservative critics like David Horowitz. Yet even a quick scan of the things he writes for his fellow radicals will make it clear that his views are far to the left of the American mainstream.

Al Fuller

 

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20 thoughts on “Eric Foner Preaches Marxism on Campus

  • I returned to school after many years away to prepare myself for the next chapter in my life. Foner’s bias is glaring to the point of my having to research who this guy is. The required text for one of my classes is “Give me Liberty”. I am beyond disappointed with him and his “work”. One other thing. How does one devote a chapter to the 60’s and not once mention the space program? What the hell are we teaching?

  • I am in the middle of my APUSH class and Eric Foner has changed my life. I used to have positive views of capitalism, but now I know it is a tool to exploit the workers. Long Life Comrade Foner and the Communist Party!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • I am in the middle of reading Reconstruction, political and economic, 1865-1877 by William Dunning (published in 1907). This was the prevailing view of Reconstruction after the Civil War until the 1960’s or so. Marxists like Foner condemn this book. Because he hates this book so much and has done his best to rewrite this specific history, this book must be a much more true version of Reconstruction. I would highly recommend reading it. William Dunning was a professor at Columbia University, so it WAS NOT written by a southerner who was trying to re-write history.

  • Is the only history books without an agenda from before 1920 or can anyone recommend some more current authors? Today I am arguing with my daughter over this Commie’s book. We need more of our own.

  • Thank you for taking the time to put this information together. I recently went back to school to finish my degree and have had two American History classes where Foner’s textbook Give Me Liberty, volumes 1 and 2 are used. They are absolute garbage. I have to spend twice as much time researching for assignments due to the fact that his material is unbelievably riddled with Marxist nonsense and focuses only on social issues during each era. I have read a great deal on 19th and 20th century history, particularly Civil War and WWII. It is very disappointing and discouraging to know that young people are being indoctrinated by revisionist historians at major universities. I’m very annoyed by the fact that I had to pay $1500 to take a class that is modeled around the literal flatus Foner is spewing forth. For those who attempt to protect him and hold him up as an expert in this field and cite peer review, awards, authoritative positions in Associations etc…. sorry, being a true expert in a field requires an unbiased truthful understanding of the subject and an ability to critically think about issues as they really are, not how you want them to be. Having your work “peer” reviewed means nothing when your peers are all marxist sympathizers bent on rewriting history in order to indoctrinate young people attempting to acquire an education. Foner’s work is garbage.

  • GP says:
    “That is like comparing 99% of academic scientists’ conclusions (and consensus) about climate change to a denial of climate change that is put out there by money-making news conglomerates. There is little accountability in the popular media for evidence and rigor. The same is not true for academic scholarship.”

    LOL! Obviously you’ve never heard of the ClimateGate scandals. My training was in chemistry, and I am utterly appalled at the way even science has been politicized by the Left. And regarding the media, where have you been? The popular media are the biggest cheerleaders for the Left’s climate-change pronouncements. Have you not read the statements from any of the top scientists — such as the former president of the American Physics Society — who have come out against the fraud and what I would call crimes against science committed by the Climate Research Unit (CRU) in England, IPCC, and various academics here in the U.S.? The climate change cult is looking an awful lot like Lysenkoism.

  • Foner is the classic example of what is wrong with higher education in America. His views are so far from the mainstream it’s off the page! Our college students should be taught facts & how to think for themselves- not propagated with Marxist nonsense.
    America, her history & culture, are not perfect but this nation stands light-years ahead of anything else the world has offered. Anyone who knows anything about the founding of this nation & the Constitution can quickly recognize the disgust Foner holds for our basic values. Thankfully many students today are thinking for themselves & realize that Foner & his ‘Give Me Liberty’ textbook does not represent a serious discussion of our country’s history.

  • Chiming in to support GP

    You should play close attention to GP’s post Al. Not only do historians rigorously examine evidence and go through the peer review process, but serious scholars of history understand that there is bias in everything. We examine sources before taking someone’s work at face value.

    I agree it is wrong to say Stalin was a great man. Stalin was a great and terrible man. The balance must be emphasized. He was brutal to the Kulaks. His purges and his isolation and elimination of Trotsky, Bukharin and others are shameful and disgusting. Yet his five year plans and his rapid industrialization of the Soviet economy saved the world from Fascism. The Red Army defeated Hitler, not the D Day invasion which we so love to glorify. Historians can see the balance.

    While you are so offended by Stalins crimes are you equally offended by Truman’s? The war criminal who used Japan as a laboratory for the US experiments with atomic weapons. Any examination of the historical evidence shows that bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki amounted to little more than global posturing which cost hundreds of Thousands of Japanese lives. Does your whole hearted belief in righteous democracy allow you to acknowledge that the US waged a war against democracy in Vietnam by trying to remove their democratically elected leader Ho Chi Mihn? Are you equally disturbed by US support for Pinochet in Chile over their democratically elected Marxist leader?

    Bias always exists in the selection of facts and their presentation. That is why historians go directly to the sources. The facts dont change, only our interpretation. Unfortunately for you the facts lean left.

  • People who criticize historians and equate a “Marxist slant” with support for communism or socialism show their own ignorance of the historiography. Marxist historians, though often critical of monopoly capitalism, are not necessarily Marxists. Karl Marx has been highly influential in the social sciences and humanities in terms of his theories of causation. In most cases, historians and scholars draw from his conceptual structures for thinking about historical change, not his overtly political writings.

    History is always “biased” in the sense that historians’ writings are their interpretations of evidence. If someone has an interpretation that you find to be offensive, you should pay attention to it and figure out why. Propoganda reaffirms the status quo, so if what you are being told rubs against what you hear in the media, then pay attention. Look at the evidence and then make a judgement. If you want to get an unbiased read on an account, you don’t find a middle ground between opposing sides. You do your research and think critically about which interpretation seems more reasonable and maintains credibility.

    Sure, Foner makes money selling textbooks and certainly holds “extreme” political beliefs. But he is a historian who is widely published through a peer-review process. This means he actually is extremely credible. Look into this process. Many people believe that historians are similar to journalists, or that anyone that writes about the past is a historian (i.e. Bill O’Reilly). This is not the case for academic historians. The academic history discipline is empirical and maintains rigorous standards. Look at the press that publishes a book. If it is an academic press, there is a very rigorous peer-review process it has to go through. If you don’t believe in the peer-review process, then you cannot believe in much. Don’t judge scholarship by comparing it with popular media that has a political agenda. That is like comparing 99% of academic scientists’ conclusions (and consensus) about climate change to a denial of climate change that is put out there by money-making news conglomerates. There is little accountability in the popular media for evidence and rigor. The same is not true for academic scholarship.

  • Thank you for this article. I am currently a college student studying political science, and as such, I become very skeptical of my professors (as I think anyone should be). Recently my professor has assigned us some of Eric Foner’s material, one being “The Idea of Free Labor” and the other being “The Republican Critique.” As I was reading I soon became suspicious of Foner’s views, sensing a lot of anti-capitalistic writing, so I decided to see where his political views resided. Thanks to your sight and this article, I was able to find some of his own words and opinions from his website. Sure enough, he’s definitely a lefty. I’ll have to continue more research but at least have a place to start. I have grown weary during my college years of having a lack of both political views and the truth of history. Give me both sides and let me decide for myself what is true. Instead college students are fed leftist ideas and absorb it like a sponge. How can people not see that America has lifted more people out of poverty than any other system?? America and capitalism aren’t perfect (mainly because men aren’t perfect) but last time I checked communism/socialism never produced, nor provided, the ability and opportunity to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Under the American ideal you can literally create anything you want through hard work, sacrifice and perseverance. We need to preserve this way of life, as it is slowly rotting and is on the edge of destruction. God Bless America! We need you more now than ever before.

  • Thank you for your article. I was assigned the book “Give Me Liberty” for my history course this semester. I first became weary of Foner after I red about his views on the Red Scare and communism during the Cold War. Notably, I noticed that there was a lack of any information supporting the anti-communist viewpoint, which I thought was strange. You are correct in saying that Foner was able to disguise his bias in the textbook. He was passive aggressive and did not attack anyone or any idea directly, but instead provided quotes and viewpoints from others that did so.

    When he got to the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal is when I started to get angry. I probably would have found a lot of other areas where his liberal bias shined, but I only read sections of the book related to my assignments. He starts off by saying that many other politicians, including Thomas Jefferson (he was perfect, therefore adultery is fine), have had affairs. He goes on to say that conservatives hated Clinton because he 1) smoked weed 2) participated in anti-war demos 3) married a feminist (clearly anti-women’s rights!) and 4) had a multicultural administration (racist!). Yeah. Then Foner says that conservatives were obsessed with Clinton’s sex life and includes a quote from frickin Karl Marx (first as tragedy, second as farce) in reference to the tragedy of Andrew Johnson’s impeachment and the farce that is Clinton’s impeachment. Nowhere in his entire analysis does he mention that Clinton denied and then later admitted to his misdeeds. He makes the whole scandal out to be about adultery, when really the much more important thing is that he LIED to the American people. I can’t believe he doesn’t mention this at all!

    It makes me wonder what else Foner has left out in his textbook. It’s very unfortunate that a historian would abuse his position to indoctrinate students, but I can’t say I’m surprised. I would say it’s possible that he has just left out information, but I don’t think he’s stupid.

  • At Michael:

    Thanks for your question Michael. Once source of information about Eric Foner’s family is the first chapter of his book “Who Owns History?” The first chapter is basically a mini-autobiography.

    Most of the passages about his family are reproduced on this web page: http://dreamersandfighters.com/cob/doc-efoner.aspx

    In the chapter he describes Philip as a “Communist-oriented historian.” He also describes how his uncle and father were fired for their Communist leanings. He also talks about how Robeson and Du Bois were family friends.

    I have the book, and there are some other interesting statements in that chapter that aren’t on the web page linked above. Foner boasts of having participated in the Columbia student rebellion of 1968, the first of the violent take-overs of college campuses by left wing radicals during the Vietnam War.

    The passage I found most chilling was his description of how “historical interpretation both reflects and helps to shape current policies.”

    In no particular order, here are some other sources of info. This page mention’s Philip Foner’s role as the official historian of the Communist Party USA: http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/individualProfile.asp?indid=1117
    This Wikipedia page describes the publisher of one of Philip’s books as “the publishing arm of the (Communist Party USA)”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Publishers

    The New York Times obit for Philip describes him as a “Marxist labor historian” and mentions his termination at CCNY in 1940: http://www.nytimes.com/1994/12/15/obituaries/philip-s-foner-labor-historian-and-professor-84.html

    There’s more information out there, but these links should be enough to confirm what I’ve said about the family.

    I commend you for refusing to accept the propaganda you’re getting at in class. As Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

    Feel free to post questions here any time.

    Al

  • I find my U.S. History class very biased… we have a Foner book. I would not be surprised if everything you say is true. Would you please show me your sources about his family, I can’t find much of anything about it.

  • @ Richard Mcdermott’s:

    I love your question. A quick Google search doesn’t turn up any Foner articles about North Korea, and that’s not surprising given that the contrast between North and South Korea would obviously be so embarrassing to pro-Communist radicals like Professor Foner.

    The next time I watch an episode of the TV show MASH, where Alan Alda demonizes the American forces who fought to keep Communism out of South Korea, I’ll think about that contrast.

  • I appreciate this article – I am a returned-to-college mature adult that is taking a American history class that Foner’s texts are required as curriculum. I am nauseated, seeing how history is being taught from my high school days to modern day – in 20+ years there is a radical difference – and I am from and live in the South. Too radical. I am planning my major in History – European, thank you – and I will be writing a letter to my college complaining the curriculum should reflect BOTH sides of the story, to balance opinions. One can only hope they won’t kick me out for excersizing my First Amendment Right!

  • Thank you Al. I have always wondered why my History textbook is so biased. Now I know about the one who wrote them. It’s such a shame that we have these biased books being used in colleges.

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