Gabriel Kolko 1932 – 2014

Note: Early this morning we received word that historian and signer to the Come Home America statement, Gabriel Kolko died yesterday.  We will include a formal obituary here shortly. — Come Home America editors. From former managing editor of Reason magazine and CHA signer, Jesse Walker:

The leftist historian Gabriel Kolko has died at age 81. He wrote many books that drew interest from libertarians, from Railroads and Regulation (1965), on the early history of the Interstate Commerce Commission, to The Limits of Power (1972), on the early history of the Cold War. But the Kolko book that libertarians love to invoke the most is The Triumph of Conservatism (1963), his history of the Progressive Era.

Read the rest here. From Antiwar.com founder and CHA signer, Eric Garris:

Gabriel Kolko died yesterday (May 19, 2014) peacefully at his home in Amsterdam. He was 82.

Kolko was an American historian who wrote about the close connection between the government and big business throughout the Progressive Era and the Cold War. He was considered a leading historian of the New Left, but broke new ground with his analysis of the corporate elite’s successful defeat of the free market by corporatism. Kolko’s thesis “that businessmen favored government regulation because they feared competition and desired to forge a government–business coalition” is one that is echoed by many observers today.

Read the rest here.

Counterpunch editor, Jeffrey St. Clair:

We received word this morning that our friend and long-time CounterPunch writer Gabriel Kolko died yesterday at his home in Amsterdam. Kolko, author of The Triumph of Conservatism, Anatomy of a War, and A Century of War, was one of the pre-eminent historians of our time. Kolko was born in Paterson, New Jersey in 1932. He attended Kent State University and received his doctorate in history from Harvard.  

Read the rest here.

Historian and CHA signer Paul Buhle adds:

When I arrived in Madison in 1967, even several of the old socialist pamphlets in the Wis State  Historical Society had “Gaby Kolko” scrawled on the title page. He donated when leaving campus.
He was a major theorist of what came to be  called Corporate Liberalism, the corporate control of the liberal agenda, but he was also a very major historian of the Vietnam War and its assorted war crimes, etc.
With a small handful of other writers, William Appleman Williams at the top of the list, Kolko pointed away from the Cold War liberalism of Arthur Schlesinger Jr and others, then dominant in the historical profession, who worked quietly with the CIA while trumpeting their fidelity to free ideas. These Cold Warriors had effaced the traditions of Charles Beard, and Kolko along with Williams restored Beard, the best of both Charles and Mary Beard, in the process.

From libertarian writer and CHA signer, Charles Burris:

The great revisionist historian Gabriel Kolko has died. Historians have long recognized that the Progressive Era, 1900 to 1920, was a critical watershed in American political-economic and intellectual history. It was the gestation period of the modern welfare-warfare state. So many crucial events and legislative enactments occurred in the period such as the birth of the Federal Reserve banking cartel, the Harrison Narcotics Act, the Pure Food and Drug Act, the ascendancy of the Eugenics movement and “scientific racism,” the passage of the Sixteenth Amendment and the progressive income tax, the Seventeenth Amendment and the popular election of U. S. senators, the Eighteenth Amendment and Prohibition, and the abandonment of America’s traditional non-interventionist foreign policy, first following the Spanish-American War (Cuba and the Philippine Insurrection), in Latin America and Mexico, and more decisively in the First World War in Europe.

Read the rest here. Law professor and CHA signer Butler Shaffer: Fifty-one years ago, I sat at my typewriter and wrote a very lengthy criticism (seemingly five or more pages) to a lawyer who had just published a book defending anti-trust cases. I gave him a no-holds-barred defense of the free market and a condemnation of those who (like him) wanted to restrain the market. I also sent a copy of the letter to Murray Rothbard – whom I had never met, but whose work I admired. A few days later, I received a response from Murray, suggesting that I might want to take a look at the just-published work of a revisionist economic historian, Gabriel Kolko. I immediately ordered the book – THE TRIUMPH OF CONSERVATISM – and, when it arrived, immediately read it. I later purchased and read his RAILROADS AND REGULATION book. His (and other’s) writings from the left, coupled with revisionists from the right, provided bipartisan encouragement to one who was beginning to learn that the entire political regulatory system was a corporate created and directed racket; that the attacks on the marketplace had their explanations in other than the Randian silliness about “America’s Persecuted Minority: Big Business.” Kolko’s death saddens me. Sociologist Frank Furedi at Spiked:

I always appreciated Kolko’s spirit of intellectual independence, his ability to insulate himself from the conformist pressures in American academia. He was a genuine radical whose work questioned both the prejudices inherent in conservative discourse as well as on the left. His scathing condemnation of American foreign policy, like his condemnation of the crudity of Maoist rhetoric, stand as a testimony to his intellectual and political integrity. Unlike most radical scholars, Kolko also seemed to possess a populist streak, which meant he was sensitive to wider cultural developments in public life outside of the academy.

Read the rest here. Author Norman Pollack at Counterpunch:

Gaby was led from the domestic/internal foundations of American capitalism to its foreign complement—and soon obsession. I’m not sure whether he and Joyce used the phrase “global hegemony,” at least until after 1970, but his understanding of policy-direction was razor sharp, so much so that in The Politics of War, a magnificent volume on World War II, which, unlike practically all other historical works of the conflict, went into the nuts-and-bolts of American Empire as actually evolving through the course of the war itself—and, as planning looked ahead to the postwar period, at the expense of the Allies (as dismembering the British Empire for purposes of achieving American trade and investment opportunities). In a way, Bretton Woods was as important to FDR as Yalta, Gaby placing FDR’s own capitalistic realpolitik into play (and insufficiently followed through by others). This was followed by The Limits of Power, with Joyce, which, among other things, worked through the intricacies of currency-and-trade domination on a world basis.

Read the rest here.

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2 Responses to Gabriel Kolko 1932 – 2014

  1. Pingback: Gabriel Kolko, RIP - Hit & Run : Reason.com

  2. Pingback: Gabriel Kolko, RIP | Michigan Standard

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