Gabriel Kolko: A leftist academic who saw things differently

Historians in the News
tags: Gabriel Kolko

One sure way to irritate leftist historian Gabriel Kolko was to mistake him for a libertarian. From his office at Toronto’s York University, the American-born professor sent the libertarian monthly magazine Reason a strongly worded letter in 1973 when its editors were assembling a list of university courses that might be of interest to students with libertarian leanings:

“Under no circumstances,” he wrote, “should I be listed in your Registry, or thought to be in any manner a supporter of your exotic political position. If anything proves my thesis that American conservative ideology is more a question of intelligence than politics, it has been the persistent use of my works to buttress your position.

“As I made clear often and candidly to many so-called libertarians,” he went on to say, “I have been a socialist and against capitalism all of my life, my works are attacks on that system, and I have no common area of sympathy with the quaint irrelevancy called ‘free market’ economics. There has never been such a system in historical reality, and if it ever comes into being you can count on me to favor its abolition.”

Prof. Kolko, revisionist historian, author, university professor and well-known critic of U.S. domestic and foreign policy in the 20th century, died on May 19 at the age of 81, at his home in Amsterdam. He was suffering from a degenerative neurological disorder and chose euthanasia, according to his friend and former student Stan Vittoz...

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